Nothing says summertime more than festivals, and Ohioans are more than ready this year to pack up the wagon and picnic blankets and hit the town for a day of food, fun, and music — all in the name of community spirit and a good time. Here’s a small taste of what’s coming up this season.
Kalida Pioneer Days
Kalida Pioneer Days (Sept. 8–11) holds the distinction of being the oldest Ohio festival, dating back 150 years to the first meeting of the Putnam County Pioneer Association, now known as the Putnam County Historical Society. The event, now co-sponsored by the Kalida Lions Club and the Kalida Firemen’s Association, has become a homecoming of sorts, drawing folks by the thousands.
Committee members don’t worry about the weekend weather, according to festival organizers. They merely entrust those concerns to the esteemed weather committee, composed of former members who have passed away over the years.
Assorted music groups play throughout the weekend around the town square. In addition to an antique tractor and truck show, vehicles from a four-state area are expected for the car show. Sunday’s 300-unit parade boasts a queen and her court, marching bands, equestrian units, and floats. Visitors also have an opportunity to tour the local museum, meander through the craft show, or enter their homemade wings in the Kalida Wing Challenge, with cash prizes and bragging rights on the line.
In addition to concession stands, carnival games, and festival rides, visitors this year can see the 150th commemorative marker being installed by the Ohio History Connection. Although the festival menu ranges from cotton candy and caramel apples to french fries and funnel cakes, most folks top off their visit with one (or sometimes two) “social” burgers grilled to perfection by members of the local Holy Name Society. The group has flipped more than half a million to date.
Celina Lake Festival
Visit Celina in late July, and you’ll see distinctive-looking cars driving along city streets before splashing into the waters of Grand Lake St. Marys.
This marks the 23rd year that members of the International Amphicar Owners Association have brought their unique part-car, part-boat vehicles to the festivities — this year slated July 22–24. One driver will even have the distinction of taking the newly crowned Miss Lake Festival 2022 on a ceremonial splash-in, much to the delight of onlookers.
Other highlights of the festival include live music, a mammoth Friday fireworks display, amusement rides, plenty of food vendors, a Huey helicopter display, sidewalk sales, a large car show, and the 150-unit grand parade, including the familiar fish float dubbed Big Bob. Celina native Mindy Cook, a member of Team USA at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, is grand marshal in keeping with the “Olympics” parade theme.
What began in 1970 as a simple sidewalk sale with an accompanying sauerkraut supper in Waynesville has grown into a two-day festival complete with some 450 craft booths and more than 30 food stands. This year’s Waynesville Sauerkraut Festival will be Oct. 8–9 along the community’s historic 1-mile Main Street and several adjacent side streets.
Organizers expect to go through nearly 6 tons of sauerkraut at this year’s event — a far cry from the 528 pounds served in 1970. The menu includes everything from sauerkraut pizza and fudge to sauerkraut cookies and cabbage rolls. Sauerkraut ice cream is the pièce de resistance for many. Of course, there are plenty of non-cabbage options available as well, and all food booths are operated by nonprofit organizations from the community.
Entertainment takes place at the main stage with musical groups performing morning to night both days. The Sunday schedule begins with a church service. The fest also features German folk dancing and a contest for the best homemade sauerkraut.
Officials suggest visitors park at the local high school and then ride the free shuttle three blocks to the festival site, as large crowds are expected.
Summer Moon Festival
Thousands of people flock to Wapakoneta each July to commemorate Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. This year’s event is July 12–17.
With rocket launch workshops, lunar rover demonstrations, wiener dog races, live music, bed races, zip line attractions, canoe races, and carnival games, events are held at several locations — the Armstrong Air and Space Museum and throughout a three-block area of the historic downtown. The Wapakoneta High School Performing Arts Center hosts the Miss Summer Moon Festival Scholarship Pageant and a visit from the Lima Area Concert Band. At least 20 food trucks will be on-site providing numerous options for hungry festival-goers.
Special guests coming for the event include three NASA astronauts as well as the four Navy frogmen who responded when the Apollo 11 space capsule carrying Armstrong and two other astronauts splashed down in the Pacific Ocean more than 50 years ago.
Vintage cars and tractors are expected for a pair of shows, while the popular Moon Market features 80 vendors. Feet hit the pavement during the Run to the Moon 5K and 1-mile fun run.
Sweet Corn Festival
The Fairfield County community of Millersport has made a tradition of celebrating corn — this year marks the 75th (diamond) anniversary of the Millersport Sweet Corn Festival, which takes place Aug. 31–Sept. 3 at Historic Lions Park.
Once, it took a pickup truckload of corn to satisfy festival-goers, with volunteers shucking the ears by hand and cooking them in a butchering kettle donated by Doris Wyckoff, parade grand marshal that year. Nowadays, with visitors consuming more than 100,000 ears of hot, buttered sweet corn, shucking is mechanized, and cooking is done in huge gas-fired troughs.
The weekend schedule offers “ear-resistable” fun for all ages, including country music with Nashville performers, tractor pulls for adults and kids, square dancing, a 5K run, clogging, crafts, a corn toss, a hula hoop contest, and a 150-unit parade with the newly crowned queen and her counterparts from the past. Visitors can also tour Heritage Village.
More than two dozen amusement rides line the large midway, and lots of other food is available to supplement the plentiful sweet corn.