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CENTER LINE - A lot of work by a few make festival great for many

bigjoe • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:51 PM

"They could cancel the festival for all I care," said Ron Vesche, owner of Main Street Flowers, which has been in business for 21 years. "We just close up (during the festival). We don't get one person in our store."

Sound familiar? You might think this was a quote from somebody following the now-defunct Strawberry Festival in Norwalk. If you did, you would be wrong.

But this was said about the Strawberry Festival the beloved National Strawberry Festival in Belleville, Mich. It was taken from a recent story in The Detroit News and written by Christine Ferretti.

There has been plenty of talk in recent years about our own Strawberry Festival, which slipped into a coma then passed away a few years ago. And that was after it was brought back to life by the Norwalk Jaycees.

The reasons have been hashed and rehashed in this newspaper. But I find it interesting Norwalk isn't the only city to have problems with its festival.

The problems in Belleville, however, make the ones here look a little silly. The problems there started when a mob of about 1,000 people stopped traffic, pounded on vehicles and hurled bottles at police officers during the 31st annual event.

The violence was so bad that Police Chief Gene Taylor asked the city council to cancel next year's festival. City Manager Walter Mears said council members will meet soon with the chief to discuss the recommendation.

"A lot of outsiders from outside of the community have nothing better to do than stir up trouble, and that's what happened," Taylor said.

No arrests were made, because that could have "set off the crowd," he added.

Whenever you bring a lot of people together, bad things can and sometimes do happen. As I recall, it was a fight in the beer tent which was the final straw for our festival.

A lot of people just don't realize how tough it is to put on an event of that magnitude. Just ask all of the organizers who are taking a deep breath today after events over the weekend at St. Paul, North Fairfield, Berlin Heights and Plymouth.

This weekend St. Joseph's has its annual fundraiser, then next week the Huron County Fair takes center stage.

While many thousands come and enjoy the festivals, it is usually just a handful of people who actually put them on.

We all found that out this past week when organizers of the Heritage Festival, started last year in Norwalk as a replacement for the Strawberry Festival, said it would not have an event this year but instead would come back in the fall of 2008.

Committee member Denise Waaland said most people involved in the festival planning have their own businesses to run and they simply are so busy they cannot devote the time necessary to put on a quality festival.

There are about 12 people on the festival committee, Waaland said, which is about the same as last year. "I've never worked with a committee this awesome," she said.

The city has no official responsibility for the festival and does not give it any money. The festival is dependent on donations.

Festivals are like watching your favorite team. All we see is the game. We are quick to complain and second-guess every decision made by the coach. But we don't see what goes on in practice and all of the hours of work that goes into putting a team together.

It's the same when we attend a festival. Everything is all set up when we get there the games, the food, the entertainment and most of all the cleanup. When we've had enough, we just get into our cars and go home.

It takes a lot of hard work and sometimes it just isn't worth the hassle. We should all keep that in mind the next time we go to an event.

We'll see you next week at the fair.

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