ST. MARYS — There is a party by the canal this weekend in St. Marys, and the weather has been a friend rather than a foe for organizers of this year’s SummerFest.
“I think we have a record crowd out here, and the weather has played a big part,” event chair John Wale said. “It started well on Thursday and it’s been great today for the parade. When you have 80s and sunshine, it brings out the crowd.”
That crowd has enjoyed many different food vendors, rides, music and other activities at Memorial Park. Some new attractions this year included a craft and commercial area and one event that quickly went to the dogs.
“We enjoyed our canine peanut butter licking contest,” Wale said. “Owners would smear peanut butter on a pie plate and whichever dog was the first to lick it clean won. Any kid that’s ever done that with their dog knows how much fun that can be, and it drew a great crowd.”
For a tightknit community such as St. Marys, SummerFest is a great opportunity to enjoy some fun with friends and neighbors while getting reacquainted with friends from days gone by.
“We have many alumni groups that plan their reunions around this event,” he said. “They’ll come in, set up a tent and have a great time.”
Holding the festival in and around Memorial Park in downtown St. Marys also has its advantages, according to Wale.
“We want to make it very family friendly,” he said. “With the intimacy of the park, the parents can sit and listen to music and know the kids are an arms-length away at the games and rides.”
Resident Mike Kill was among the hundreds who enjoyed the sounds of the Lee Gantt Band on Saturday evening.
“They’ve got some great music out here this year,” he said. “I like that ’80s rock sound.”
While Kill normally comes out to SummerFest maybe one or two days, one new development prompted him to stay for the entire festival.
“My daughter was chosen the SummerFest queen,” he said. “So I definitely feel more of an obligation to be out here this year.”
Kill was only one of among the 3,000 to 4,000 people expected to enjoy SummerFest this year, with all profits raised during the festival staying in St. Marys.
“Most of the profits generated here go back into the community, whether it’s the local civic clubs or the Chamber of Commerce,” Wale said. “It can go for scholarships or other community needs.”
SummerFest will conclude Sunday, ending with a fireworks display at 10 p.m., but Wale said there are many other reasons to come out and enjoy the final day of the festival.
“We’ve got two great bands here Sunday,” he said. “From 3 to 7 p.m. we’ll have Haywired, a great, regional, up-and-coming country band. We’ll follow that up from 7 to 10 p.m. with Mix Factory, a couple out of Indiana that do a great job singing various ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and even some ’90s songs, with a lot of pop music. They’re a lot of fun and very interactive with the crowd.”