‘One big reunion of friends, neighbors and family’

by Sara Hill

Whether it’s the food trucks, the rides, the entertainment line-up or the fireworks, everyone loves a good summer fair, and this year, cities across northeast Ohio are thrilled to give the people what they want – treasured time together.

“Home Days is like one big reunion of friends, neighbors and family where even actual Independence High School Reunions are held throughout the weekend,” said Independence Community Services Director Emily Thomas of the city’s Aug. 5-6 event. “It is the perfect opportunity for community members to support organizations, causes and initiatives that are so near-and-dear to our hearts. In addition, it affords everyone the opportunity to meet and talk with city team members and elected officials, which is vital for a community with residents as involved as ours.”

Last summer, most community festivals went on as scheduled and crowds held steady, despite changes in venues and other modifications made by planning committees.

In Brecksville, Human Services Program Coordinator Ted Lux said the city’s 2021 Home Days event was pushed out to a later date as city leaders studied virus statistics. This summer’s Brecksville Home Days event is back to its typical schedule and will be held June 24-26 on Public Square. Attendees can expect all their favorite activities including the crowd-pleasing fireworks display, various food trucks, rides, children’s area, bands, civic booths, the “Dog Jog,” the Home Days Run, and the pancake breakfast, among others.

“The day after the festival ends, I start contacting companies to book for next year,” Lux said. “I have already booked a food truck for 2023. We begin our formal planning meetings in April.”

For most people, visiting their community festival each summer is a treasured ritual, and the tradition has gained even greater traction as events make a return-to-normal following the onset of a global pandemic more than two years ago.

Mike Marks, president of Bath-Richfield Kiwanis, is helping prepare for Richfield Community Day, which is set for Aug. 14 at Richfield Woods Park. Community Day features a raffle tent, concessions, games, music and dancing, informational booths, representation from numerous local groups, entertainment, a frog jumping contest and many other “old-fashioned” favorites, Marks said.

“We are bringing back one of the event favorites – the pie baking contest, which we stopped because of COVID,” Marks said. “There will be different categories to enter this year, and the pies will be judged for prizes. The AMVETS horseshoe pitching contest is a staple of Community Day, along with the Beer Garden that they sponsor. Coming back this year will be the inflatables. There will be a variety of games for children and adults to play and possibly win some prizes. A balloon man will be around to make special amazing shapes out of balloons for all to enjoy. Other activities for both adults and children will be happening throughout the park.”

Community Day is an important service that the Bath-Richfield Kiwanis sponsors, Mark noted, as it helps raise funds for the organization to continue to provide services to the community and other nonprofits that need help.

In Broadview Heights, Home Days is set for July 7-10 at the Broadview Heights City Campus, said City Clerk and mayor’s secretary Lisa Putka. Plans are coming together for the successful annual event, which includes bands, entertainment, the Pick-a-Prize Raffle Tent and the Mayor’s 5K Run/1 Mile Walk, among many other activities and event features.

Back in Independence, event Co-Chairs Emily Thomas, community services director, and Amber Veverka, assistant community services director, are working with members of the Home Days Committee to plan the event. Every summer in the two weeks following Home Days, leaders host a wrap-up meeting to review highlights, successes and share their thoughts and ideas for improving the event the following summer, Thomas said. Detailed, formal planning kicks off at the start of the new year.

“What we can share is how excited we are to revive a few nostalgic Home Days community favorites,” Thomas said in an interview in March. “We will be focusing some of our time, talent and resources to ensure this year’s Home Days in Elmwood Park has the same ‘homey’ feel that our residents have come to enjoy when Home Days was at the square.”

Last summer, Independence relocated its Home Days celebration to Elmwood Park to have more space for social distancing, and the move was a total homerun, added Communications Director Alla Lora. ∞