The dates of Wauseon’s signature summer event were hastily changed this month following a contractual break with its longtime amusements provider. And the move is causing some concern.
Homecoming has been bumped up to June 20-22, weeks ahead of its traditional spot. The change was forced when Big O Amusements, based in Cardington, Ohio, reneged on the contract it signed with the Homecoming Committee in October.
Keith O’Brien, who co-chairs the committee with his wife, Jerri, said he learned of the conflict after Big O Amusements owner Judy Otterbacher contacted him this month. She told him she sent an email in November saying the company can’t honor the Homecoming contract due to internal changes and cutbacks. O’Brien said he never received the email.
He said after conducting some research on Big O Amusements he discovered “we are not the only event that they’ve canceled on.”
The Homecoming Committee scrambled to find another amusements provider, and signed Jan. 12 with Cromer Amusements of Eaton, Ohio. Homecoming was rescheduled to accommodate the company’s availability. O’Brien said every other ride company he contacted was completely booked through July and August.
Cromer Amusements will provide eight to 10 rides which likely will include a 65-foot tall Ferris wheel. The company will also provide up to half a dozen concession games and three or four concession trailers for the Homecoming midway. The concessions will offer standard fair food such as cotton candy, fried treats, and candied apples.
Like its past agreements with Big O Amusement, which provided the event with rides and concessions for years, the Homecoming Committee will receive a share of the new provider’s revenue.
Though rescheduled weeks ahead of its intended dates, O’Brien said Homecoming will go on. He said, however, that some entertainers scheduled to appear have had to back out to honor commitments they had already made for June. And he’s uncertain whether overall attendance will be affected.
“We’re pretty much starting over, planning everything,” O’Brien said. “But we’re getting some good entertainment lined up. We’re going to have to make it work.”
He said the earlier dates could actually be a benefit, adding, “It could be cooler weather, and I think we will be one of the first festivals of the summer.” He said this isn’t the first time in the Homecoming’s history that dates have been changed.
The Homecoming Committee was more than fortunate that Cromer Rides had an opening in its schedule, O’Brien said. He said after this year the Homecoming date “is up in the air.”
The Wauseon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bill Drummer said the change in dates is a bit worrisome.
“I’m concerned that so many people schedule things around the Homecoming. I don’t how it will fall in line with everything going on at the fairgrounds, at the ballparks,” he said. Homecoming will begin just one week prior to the opening of the 75th Annual National Threshers Association Reunion at the fairgrounds.
The Homecoming schedule has always been predicated on the schedule of the amusements provider, Drummer said. “Maybe it’s time we not time the festivals to rides,” he said.
Regardless of what the change in dates incurs, “I will be 100 percent behind it,” he said of Homecoming. “I will try my hardest to make it successful. I feel good that we’re giving people plenty of time to change their schedules.”
What the Homecoming needs now is volunteers to serve on its committee in various capacities, O“Brien said. He said with only about 15 people currently serving on the committee at least another five members would be appreciated.
“We rely on the community to help us out with the volunteers,” he said.
Anyone interested in volunteering can call O’Brien at 419-822-7289 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.