CW’s Hometown Day set for Sept. 4

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By Linda Dillman
Staff Writer

Labor Day is always a cause for celebration in Canal Winchester, but with COVID-19 concerns still on the mind of festival organizers, the annual three-day festival shifts this year to a smaller, single day, end-of-summer special occasion on Sept. 4.

Hometown Day features music, midway food, children’s inflatables, and the introduction of the Canal Winchester Queen and her court at noon on a main stage in the Stradley Park greenspace, followed by a Lemonade Social from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in the historic Interurban Station.

The celebration kicks off at 10:30 a.m. with a parade that will follow the traditional Labor Day parade route. The Canal Winchester Steel Band plays from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in the Stradley Park gazebo, followed by Franke and Ranke featuring Frank Harrison, Sr. from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Mr. E entertains children at the main stage from 2:30-4:40 p.m. and The Usual Suspects and Repeat Offenders wind up Hometown Day from 7-10 p.m. The weekly Farmer’s Market takes place at the historical complex at North High and Oak streets from 9 a.m. to noon where an old-fashioned ice cream social will be held from 1-3 p.m.

Entertainment includes an art wall and face painting from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Stradley greenspace and Joy Unspeakable, a living statue, performs throughout the festival from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Why the one-day event? Mayor Mike Ebert said the idea was in the back of the of the minds of the Labor Day Festival Committee as far back as January, when COVID issues were not improving and seemed to be getting worse.

“The annual Labor Day Festival draws between 30,000 and 40,000 visitors over the three-day weekend, with kids rides, a car show, beer tent and nearly continuous stage entertainment, all of which bring people in close proximity with each other,” said Ebert. “That is something we wanted to avoid as we do not want the festival to potentially become a super spreader of COVID to our community. We thought limiting the number of days and events within a festival would help curb that.”

In addition to not wanting to be the cause of a pandemic outbreak, Ebert said availability of entertainment also played a big part in the decision. He said that most widely known musicians were not committing to anything in the first four months of the year for 2021 concerts.

Those who did were demanding a 50 percent non-refundable deposit, money the Labor Day committee did not think was a smart move and making it less affordable for future festivals.

“Additionally, several musicians we were considering for 2021 had canceled concerts in 2020 at various locations and they decided to fulfill 2020 commitments this year, making it even more difficult to get the entertainers we were looking for,” said Ebert. “After a lot of discussion and heartbreak for us as organizers, it became apparent what we had to do—once again cancel the 100th Labor Day Festival, the one festival we have all been working so hard towards for the last several years. It is as disheartening to us as organizers as it is to those who come to enjoy our festivals, yet we still receive criticism for making the right call.”

In opting for a single day event, the Labor Day Committee felt it had to do something in Canal Winchester for residents, even it was a smaller gathering.

“We wanted to do something for our hometown, hence the name Hometown Day, just to give people a fun activity away from home,” said Ebert.

According to Ebert, as small as the event is, it still requires a great deal of money and planning—from street closures, obtaining food vendors, parade participants, entertainment, to kid’s activities and much more. He said food vendors often shy away from one-day events for multi-day events where they can make more money.

“We decided to not charge any vendor for space for this event, in order to get them here for our attendees,” Ebert said. “The committee will be losing out on several thousand dollars by doing this, but we wanted to make it enjoyable for those looking for some of their favorite Labor Day foods. In response to this, most, if not all of our Labor Day committee members have pitched in financially with donations to help make up for the loss of vendor fees. It’s not always about the work we do to make events happen, but the things we go above and beyond on that are often unspoken, and we do it every year.”

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