The 85th Annual Wauseon Homecoming is adding a few new features including an earlier date.
The hometown festival will be held this Thursday through Saturday, June 20-22, rather than during its traditional spot later in the summer. Homecoming Committee Co-Chair Kevin O’Brien said the change was the result of losing its annual agreement with Big O Amusements of Cardington, Ohio. The company had for years provided Homecoming with carnival rides.
O’Brien said he was notified in January that Big O could not honor its contract with Wauseon this year due to restructuring within its organization. He said the Homecoming Committee was forced to quickly sign with another company, Cromer Amusements of Eaton, Ohio.
Homecoming had to be rescheduled to accommodate Cromer’s availability, since amusement companies are often fully booked for events years in advance, O’Brien said.
“We are not the only ones (Big O) did that to,” he added.
The change is actually to Wauseon’s advantage, since Cromer’s will provide a Ferris wheel, an attraction Homecoming has not featured in years, O’Brien said. The company will also provide up to nine other carnival rides, about half a dozen games, and several food concessions.
Another new Homecoming feature will be miniature golf in the Kids’ Zone section. The game will replace the former petting zoo, and will also be available to adult players. Throughout the festival, the Kids’ Zone will have inflatables, face painting, and Big Wheel races.
And additional musical talent has been booked this year. T.J. Sloan will perform Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on the main stage, prior to the 8 p.m. Homecoming Queen pageant. Also at 6:30 p.m., acoustic performers Ryan Roth and Craig Ackerman will entertain at the corner of Fulton and Elm streets. On the midway Saturday, acoustic performer Nick Delacruz will play from 6-8 p.m., and acoustic performers Bill Frank and Shane Tanner from 8-10 p.m.
Homecoming’s opening ceremony will be held Thursday at 5 p.m., along with a pork chop on a stick dinner by Pettisville Meats in a barbecue tent at West Chestnut and South Fulton streets. The annual Kiddie Parade will begin at 6 p.m., led by Prince Eli Simon, son of James and Susan Simon, and Princess Sophie Russell, daughter of John and April Russell.
On Friday, a ribeye steak dinner will be served in the barbecue tent beginning at 5 p.m. Other events that day include K-9 demonstrations by the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office at 6 p.m. at South Park; the VIP Express Cloggers at 6 p.m. at Fulton and Elm streets; and a teen dance on the midway from 8-11 p.m., featuring Nune Molina of Loco Sounds.
The annual Battle of the Bands will take the main stage Friday at 6:30 p.m. Competitors include Chloe and the Steel Strings, Black Order, Whisper Disco, The Casket Company, Flat Tire Ambulance, G-String Jettson, and Monkey Wrench.
Saturday’s schedule includes the annual Homecoming Parade at 11 a.m., traveling from Leggett and Fulton streets to Elm Street at Shoop Avenue, and sporting the theme “Jump Into Summer.”
The parade’s grand marshal is Lynda Ferriera-Arquette, 59, a three-year Homecoming Committee member and a 20-year volunteer for the event. Known affectionally as “The Ticket Lady,” the former Wauseon resident has sold thousands of Homecoming raffle tickets over the years in a tent on the midway.
“They come looking for me at the Homecoming at a special place,” she said. “About three years ago they moved me to the Chamber of Commerce building, and people were really upset. They couldn’t find me. So they moved me back.”
Ferriera-Arquette’s duties over the years have included setting up for the event, organizing the Kiddie Parade, and preparing food. “I’ve done almost everything. I give back to the community that way.” she said.
A special education teacher at Evergreen Local Schools, she felt honored and humbled to be selected grand marshal.
“I just want to thank the Wauseon community,” Ferriera-Arquette said. “And to those people who come looking for me, please keep coming. I’ll still be there.”
The Homecoming Parade will brighten this year with the addition of a dozen Star Wars characters such as Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Boba Fett, a Jawa, and Imperial officers and stormtroopers. The characters will arrive by fire truck at South Park an hour prior to the parade to hold a meet-and-greet session, and will again meet the public from 1-2 p.m. in the Birch Theater at The Magic Corner, 113 S. Fulton St.
Other events on Saturday include a chicken barbecue by Pettisville Meats starting at 11:30 a.m. in the barbecue tent; wood carving by Lahey Custom Carvings at 1 p.m. at Fulton and Elm streets; the Junior Pageant at 2 p.m. on the main stage; ice carvings by Ice Creations at 4 p.m. at Fulton and Elm streets; and main stage entertainment by Super Hawk from 3:30-6:30 p.m.; Down Yonder from 7-8 p.m.; and Nashville Crush from 8-11 p.m.
About 20 vendors will be placed along the Homecoming midway, and food options will include a sausage stand, hamburgers, French fries, and milkshakes.
“I’m looking for it to be a good year,” said O’Brien, who co-chairs the event with his wife, Jerri. He said another advantage to the earlier dates is a respite from July’s often hot, muggy weather.
He is also requesting volunteers to fill slots in the Kids’ Zone and in food booths. Call 419-822-7289.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.