With tongue planted firmly in cheek, the Village of Fayette will hold its 43rd Annual Bull Thistle Arts Festival on Saturday at Normal Grove on Gross Street.
The offbeat event celebrating the bull thistle, a prickly, flowering weed designated the national emblem of Scotland, draws an average of 500 people each year and takes itself less than seriously, said Ruth Marlatt, former Fayette mayor and festival committee member.
With the theme “Thistle Be the Best Yet,” the festival kicks off with a parade at 11 a.m. that spotlights a village king and queen and prince and princess. The more than 50 entries will include village dignitaries, classic cars, antique tractors, and units from local businesses and organizations wending their way from the Fayette schools complex to Normal Grove.
An opening ceremony for the festival will be held at the grove at 12:30 p.m. What follows includes softball and volleyball tournaments, an inflatable maze, miniature train rides for children, and an arts and crafts show with about 30 vendors.
And lots of food. Visitors can choose from a Port-A-Pit barbecue chicken dinner, hot dogs, French fries, milkshakes, and a Thistleburger – a hamburger and sausage combination.
Entertainment emceed by Steve Snider will feature Bliss, a Toledo-based acoustic rock and folk group, performing from 1-2 p.m. and 3-4 p.m. Taking the middle entertainment set is the Down Home Sampler, a sampling of several one-to-two song acts by local performers.
A fireworks extravaganza will be held by Phantom Fireworks at dusk at the Fayette schools complex at 400 E. Gamble Road.
The crown jewel of the festival, the Bull Thistle Contest, will be held at 1 p.m. That’s when contestants gather with bull thistle specimens to be judged for humorous awards in categories of height, girth, number of blossoms, fibrous content of the stalk, and the Frank Wilson Memorial People’s Choice Award. Best of Show is awarded the “Golden Hoe,” while the worst entry is given a booby prize.
Marlatt said the contest will prove interesting this year due to a local shortage of bull thistles caused by farmers’ vigilant pesticide control. She said the same problem occurred at last year’s festivities.
“Every year we have people who bring in something that isn’t a bull thistle, and we have to explain to them that we can’t judge it,” she said coyly. “Some people take it very seriously, some just have a good time.”
The bull thistles were judged each year by Marlatt’s husband, James. Since his death in 1984, their son John travels each year from his home in Royersford, Pa., to do the honors.
This year’s Bull Thistle Festival will also see the dedication of a new park entrance, replacing one previously destroyed in a storm. Fashioned from ironwork recalling a style from the turn of the 20th Century, the entrance is “very unique, very timely, and very attractive,” Marlatt said.
On Sunday, Aug. 4, a community church service will be held at 10:30 a.m. at Normal Grove.
Marlatt said the Bull Thistle Arts Festival arose from a challenge given in 1977 to her husband and Herb Woodard, editor of the former Fayette Review, to create a community festival. She said because the two shared a decidedly quirky sense of humor, they devised a festival celebrating a weed that area farmers detest. Since then, the event has grown enough to welcome guests from as far as Michigan and Indiana.
A committee member since its inception, Marlatt said the Bull Thistle Arts Festival is a signature Fayette tradition and a just plain good time.
“There’s lots of nice crafts, and the food is worth it,” she said. “It’s just a fun afternoon, where people sit around tables and talk and eat. It’s just a good time. You get people from all over, and you never know exactly what to expect.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.