Perch and Pilsner Festival brings music, drink and fish to Conneaut

People wait in line for food at Big Bamboo’s Caribbean Grill at the Perch and Pilsner festival Friday in Conneaut

Festivals in Conneaut and Geneva-on-the-Lake saw increased numbers of visitors over the weekend.

Thunder on the Strip and the Perch and Pilsner festival both took place this weekend, drawing crowds to lakeshore.

This was the 13th year for Thunder on the Strip, and the second year for the Perch and Pilsner festival.

Dwayne Bennett, the organizer of Thunder on the Strip, estimates that 70,000 people came to the event over its four-day span.

“It’s one of the biggest Saturdays we’ve ever seen,” Bennett, who is also the mayor of Geneva-on-the-Lake, said. 

Parking along the Strip in Geneva-on-the-Lake was restricted to motorcycles only for the event, and that parking was full on Saturday, Bennett said. Thursday was also a record-setting day for crowds, Bennett said.

 “There was no parking anywhere to be found,” Bennett said.

Thunder on the Strip provided live music and vendors for attendees, along with motorcycle stunt shows and all of the regular attractions of Geneva-on-the-Lake.

The weather this weekend was good, except for brief showers on Saturday morning.

“I mean, obviously the weather played a part in (the attendance),” Bennett said.

“It’s always rained at least one day of Thunder, so this was nice to finally have a good year,” Bennett said.

Thunder on the Strip was intended to expand the tourist season beyond the unofficial end of summer, the Labor Day weekend, Bennet said. Since then, it has grown significantly, covering four days and drawing in tens of thousands of visitors.

Perch and Pilsner had parking set aside for motorcycles, in case any visitors to Thunder on the Strip wanted to make the drive out to Conneaut.

This year, Perch and Pilsner, held at Conneaut Township Park, expanded from two days to three. Among the draws of the event were craft beers, a fishing competition, water skiing shows and fireworks.

“It was awesome,” Jeff Raisian, the event’s organizer, said.

Attendance for this year’s event was two to three times larger than last year’s, Raisian said.

“It was fabulous. ... Saturday we had more people than we expected, and that’s what we wanted,” Wendy DuBey, executive director of the Conneaut Chamber of Commerce, said.

The weather also benefitted Perch and Pilsner. “If we could have weather like that every year, we would be so happy,” DuBey said.

The lake conditions were also good, and crowds for the ski show was around three times larger, Raisian said.

“I have heard only positive remarks about the festival from everybody. I really feel that it’s Conneaut’s ... signature festival, and it’s what we needed,” DuBey said.

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