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'Largest community event' ready to kick off in Willard

Zoe Greszler • Jun 26, 2019 at 3:00 PM

WILLARD — The hustle and bustle of a family-friendly, big city event will come to small city Willard this week.

The 33rd annual Festival in the Park invites all to enjoy the community event taking place today through Saturday. 

Each night will feature a big activity or item of entertainment, as well as nightly concerts, circus performances and events catering to those of all ages and interests. 

“The festival appeals to all ages,” said Willard City Manager Jim Ludban, adding there would be contests, rides, food vendors, stage shows, concerts and more. “This is the largest community event that we have. Everyone gets involved; it’s a (true) community event.”

The community-wide kickball tournament will begin at 6 p.m. today and Thursday. Everyone is invited to enjoy fun and games as the Willard Elks sponsor a free-throw hoop shoot from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Friday is a special day for veterans and their families as for the first time, Willard welcomes the Ohio Flags of Honor, a traveling memorial for the military personnel who have been killed during the War on Terrorism. The opening ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. and the flags will remain displayed in the park, near the old train depo, through early Sunday afternoon.

The Fourth of July parade will begin at 5 p.m. Saturday, running from Willard High School to Laurel Avenue. Then the garden tractor pull starts at 5:30, a vintage baseball game at 7 and Olde Time Wrestling at 7 and 9.

The festival will end with a fireworks display at 10:30 p.m. Saturday. A rain date is set for Sunday should the weather continue to be adverse. 

Parks and recreation director Bryson Hamons said the city tries to make the event as family-friendly as possible.

“We want everyone to enjoy it,” he said. “We want the kids to have a good time, but not just the kids. We want the adults to have a good time when they come too.”

Hamons said one way to keep people coming back year after year is by switching up entertainment options and acts. Typically, the parks and recreation department doesn’t bring back entertainment that’s been at the festival before. This year though, he said it felt like a good choice to have Olde Wrestling return for a second year in a row. 

“We like to try to mix it up, but it was so well attended and by so many ages,” Hamons said. “There were children and adults — all ages just loved it. We’re hoping it’ll be that way with the Circus Stella this year too.”

The circus act is performed by a married couple with their group of rescue dogs.

Hamons said Saturday’s parade is always well anticipated and this year features between 50 and 60 floats and entrants. He added that anyone can enter until shortly before the parade, so that could change.   

Now the community just needs to pray Mother Nature cooperates, Ludban and Hamons said. Both administrators are fairly confident the forecast will hold out and provide a pleasant weekend for all in attendance.  

“We’re ready to kick this off. It has been a struggle with all the rain, but it’s coming together and we’re ready,” Hamons said. 

In the case of more showers, the parks and rec leader said “the show will go on as planned.” Only the fireworks will be moved -—to Sunday — in the event of adverse conditions.

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FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

TODAY (KIDS’ DAY)

4 p.m. — Festival opens with food and craft vendors

4:30 to 7:30 p.m. — Sillie Tillie balloon art

5 to 11 p.m. — Rides open

6 p.m. — Toby the Turtle Birthday celebration

6 p.m. — Book characters on the midway

6 p.m. — Circus Stella 

6 p.m.— Kickball tournament 

7 p.m. — Toby the Turtle on Midway

8 p.m. — Circus Stella

8:30 p.m. — Concert: Rolling Out of Cleveland

10 p.m.: Circus Stella

 

THURSDAY

4 p.m. — Festival opens

5 to 11 p.m. — Rides open

5 to 8 p.m. — Free-throw hoop shoot

6 p.m. — Circus Stella

6 p.m. — Kickball tournament 

6:30 p.m. — Toby the Turtle

8 & 10 p.m. — Circus Stella

 

FRIDAY 

4 p.m. — Festival opens 

5 to 11:30 p.m. — Rides open

6 p.m. — Circus Stella

7 p.m. — Ohio Flags of Honor opening ceremony (behind the depot)

8:30 p.m. — Toby the Turtle on the Midway

9 p.m. — Concert: Toungue N’ Groove

9 p.m. — Circus Stella

 

SATURDAY

Noon to 5 p.m. — Rides special

5 p.m. — Fourth of July Parade (from Willard High School to Laurel Avenue)

5 to 11:30 p.m. — Rides open

5:30 p.m. — Tri-county Garden Tractor Pull (On West Avenue)

7 p.m. — Olde Wrestling

7 p.m. — Vintage baseball game

7 p.m. — Toby the Turtle on Midway

9 p.m. — Olde Wrestling

8 p.m. — Concert: Rockie Lynne

10:30 p.m. — Fourth of July fireworks show

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