The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

June 14, 2013

A bigger, better festival needs Conneaut support

Fireworks, parade see a big shift in the schedule

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — First-time festival organizer Marty Landon says this year’s Fourth of July extravaganza at Lakeview Park will be an eye-popper.

“We’ve got more food vendors than we’ve seen in a long, long time,” he said. “And we have a very large merchandise section with vendors.”

Also, the weekend’s entertainers, including Conneaut Idol contestants, will perform on a special state to be erected at the Slo-Pitch ball field adjacent to the park. Other tweaks, including a parade on the holiday and Saturday night fireworks are ahead.

But putting on such a spectacular requires funds, and Landon is seeking the support of the community.

“We’ve run into some bumps in the road, some unforeseen expenses,” he said. “I’m pounding the sidewalks looking for donations.”

This year’s festival isn’t in jeopardy, but help is needed to maintain standards, Landon said. To help the treasury, Landon said he is planning some fundraisers in the coming weeks. All contributions are tax deductible and can be made by contacting Landon at 593-6299, he said.

Conneaut’s City Council helped the cause earlier this week, unanimously agreeing to give $1,000 to the festival committee.

Money aside, there’s much that will be different for visitors. The festival will launch July 4 and conclude July 6, a Saturday, with a fireworks show at the lakefront. Traditionally, the big display is held on Sunday nights.

Last year, the show was postponed when high winds buffeted the lakeshore, and wasn’t rescheduled until Labor Day a month later. For that reason, Landon decided to advance the display one day in 2013.

“If there’s another weather delay, the fireworks company will wait until Sunday,” he said. “Also, on a Saturday night everybody can stay late because (most people) don’t work on Sundays.”

The Thursday holiday also provided an opportunity to reshuffle the town’s big parade. Rather than Saturday, the procession will kick off the festival, staging on Depot Street and traveling north to the festival midway. This year’s parade will be a salute to military veterans, and all vets are invited to march. Nicholas Church, a local veterans advocate, will be the grand marshal, Landon said.

“This is a celebration of our independence,” he said. “Who better to honor than our veterans?”

Entertainment is planned each night of the festival, but instead of a small wooden platform in the middle of the midway, performers will be featured on an elaborate stage erected in the infield of the neighboring ball field. Landon said he is grateful to the Conneaut Recreation Board for use of the diamond.

“The stage is very, very nice,” he said. “It’s something people in Conneaut haven’t seen before.”

The stage needed to scoot to accommodate Lisko Amusements, the ride/games company Landon booked this year. Lisko’s rides are featured at the Ashtabula County Fair, he said.

“They wanted the whole park,” Landon said, meaning many more ride options can be expected.

The popular pageants for young girls will return, Landon said. Registration forms for the pageants, parade and Conneaut Idol contest will be available at the Conneaut Area Chamber of Commerce office, Main and Washington streets.

Landon has high hopes for the festival. He is overseeing the show for the first time, and planning began as soon as the last firework exploded in 2012.

“I went to other festivals to get ideas and to talk to people,” he said. “We’re going to give (the Conneaut event) a fresh, new look.”