AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP — Area residents lined Route 45 early Saturday afternoon as dozens of units participated in the Austinburg Country Days parade continuing a nearly five-decade tradition.

"For long as I can remember," said Judy Hanneman of Austinburg Township of her participating in the event. She said she has been coming to the festival for most of her life.

Gayle Shumate said her mother, Dorothy Edwards, was the grand marshal and excited about the honor at the age of 99. Shumate said Edwards lived in Austinburg Township for 30 years and now lives in Saybrook Township.

A sense of tradition surrounds the festival and those who have been attending since they were in diapers. "We always come out to the festival. I grew up in this house (along Route 45) and I have come every year of my life," said Sarah Spargo who now lives down the road in Roaming Shores.

Tractors, fire trucks, the Geneva High School band and festival royalty all participated in the parade that shut down Route 45 for about a half hour.

Area children were especially excited about the weekend of activities.

Kathleen Dafoe, who lives just around the corner from the parade route, said her children have been excited the last several days. "They (the kids) love it. They watched them setting up and danced to their music and dressed up like princesses," she said.

Parade announcer Kanda O'Dell, part of the four-member committee that puts on the annual event, gave a detailed description of each unit as they made their way through the Route 84 intersection.

O'Dell said the weather cooperated on Friday evening as the festival got started with a concert. She said Marcy Hejduk organized the parade.

In addition to the committee, a variety of other volunteers help make the festival a reality. "We pull in all our family members," she said with a laugh.

O'Dell said any proceeds from the event are donated to community organizations. She said the fire department, Northwest Ambulance District and the Austinburg Township Park have all been beneficiaries over the years.

The festival continues today with a 10:30 a.m. worship service led by the Rev. Bill Terry, pastor of Austinburg First United Church of Christ.

The children take center stage early this afternoon at the park with the frog jumping contest at 1 p.m., the always entertaining "grease pole" climb at 2:30 p.m. and yard games at 3 p.m.

The Austinburg Fire Deaprtment is scheduled to sponsor water battles at 4:30 p.m. and the Blues Project will close out the weekend with a concert in the park pavilion from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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