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Local festivals still are thriving

The news last week that the Piqua Heritage Festival is “shutting down” made me think about some of the various events we enjoy around Clark County.

Unfortunately, I never attended the Piqua festival. What I have discovered during my research makes me regret not taking advantage of the opportunity, because it sounds like it was a very good event.

Their website says that since 1981, “the Piqua Heritage Festival has been a Labor Day tradition. It has been a place for families to learn about local history, explore the area’s culture, eat fantastic food and support local nonprofit organizations.” Admission for the three-day event was just $3, with people 18-and-under admitted free.

These days, there are too few places for positive family interaction, even fewer places to learn about local history and too few opportunities to support local nonprofit organizations.

Organizers blamed the termination of the event on “decreased funds and a lack of volunteers.” The festival requires 2,000 volunteers and $90,000 annually.

Jim Campbell, the Clark County Park District’s executive director, says the Fair at New Boston is probably the local event that is closest to the Piqua Heritage Festival, although the Piqua event had a larger physical space.

Campbell says attracting volunteers for the Fair at New Boston “has not been a major problem,” adding they have 50-60 organizing volunteers and a few hundred who actually work during the recreation of late 1700’s/early 1800’s trade fair. It also runs three days over Labor Day Weekend, with an Education Day for school children on Friday. The budget is $50,000-$60,000, with no paid staff. Some participating entertainers are hired.

Nancy Flinchbaugh coordinates volunteers for the annual Springfield CultureFest, which is a one-day event. She indicated they really don’t have a big problem attracting volunteers and “have had a good response” from the community. They partner with a number of different organizations and while some come and go, others have been consistent through the years. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including the City of Springfield, Clark County, local businesses and individuals. This year’s CultureFest takes place on Saturday, Sept. 27.

Another of the annual festivals here in Clark County is the Enon Apple Butter Festival. Now in its 36th year, the event is sponsored by The Enon Community Historical Society as a community service project. Society President Tim Devore told me they have a core group of 10-12 organizers and some 200 volunteers, but the key is consistently bringing in “new blood” to replace those that drop off. Some of those who are involved now, he pointed out, are third and fourth generation.

In terms of funding, the village of Enon covers the police costs associated with the festival. Because it’s a fundraising event for community organizations, they pay for booths at the festival. The Historical Society uses profits from the previous year’s festival and sells apple butter made on-site in six large copper kettles to generate more revenue each year.

So, while the Miami Valley has lost the festival in Piqua, it looks like the future of similar events around Clark County is solid.

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