Weathersfield hoists up festival
Flag Day events return after pandemic forced cancellation in 2020
WEATHERSFIELD — The annual Flag Day Festival enjoyed by township residents is back after being canceled due to COVID-19 last year.
The three-day festival kicked off Thursday evening with droves of Mahoning Valley residents flocking to the Weathersfield Township Community Park for the festivities. Township trustee Steve Gerberry said holding the festival is a relief for the residents.
“We were hearing people say they missed it and how nice it was. Everything just fell in line with the governor’s orders, so I hope it’s the start of the post-COVID-19 era,” Gerberry said.
Prior to the lifted health protocols, Gerberry said the trustees authorized the festival under the guise of needing to wear masks and remain socially distanced. The authorization was passed unanimously by the trustees May 11 and the next day Gov. Mike DeWine announced the protocols were to be lifted June 2.
“We knew people would have to wear masks and stay apart, and we were willing to do that because we thought the residents would want to have the festival,” Gerberry said. “We’ve always followed the guidelines from the Ohio Department of Health and the other local health agencies and listened to what they said. We put a lot of faith in them so hopefully it’s going to be OK.”
Among the first to the festival were Nicole Millich and her 5-year-old daughter, Avery Olesky of Weathersfield. Millich said they attend the festival yearly and were upset with the cancellation last year.
“We were actually pretty upset about it, especially (Avery). She loves the parade and the candy, of course,” Millich said. “She’s been asking me for a week and a half straight about when the festival is, including today. I’m just happy she gets to be here, see her friends from school and have a good time.”
The festival has much to offer, including inflatables, games, food, live music, bocce courts and more. The inflatables drew the attention of 5-year-old Helena Maher and her grandmother, Gina Maher of Weathersfield. Helena said she was most excited to “bounce around,” while Gina said she was looking forward to the food.
“We come every year, and we’re happy to have it back,” Gina Maher said.
Wedged between Mahoning and Trumbull counties, the festival also saw first-time attendees like the Pitts family of Niles and the Chick family of Austintown. Megan Pitts said her family was celebrating her father’s birthday and thought it would be fun to meet up at the festival.
“(My parents) knew it was happening, so we decided to meet here and have fun with the kids,” Megan Pitts said.
For her 2-year-old son, Nolan, Megan was looking forward to letting him “take advantage of any type of ride” at the festival.
“With everyone being cooped up from COVID-19, it’s nice to let him come out and play here,” Kyle Pitts said. “It’s nice to see things like this in smaller communities.”
Dante Chick Jr. agreed that the festival gives his 2-year-old, Dante III, a chance to get outside post-COVID-19.
“It’s a fun place to bring the kids. It’s been tough with everything going on last year so to be able to bring him somewhere to have fun is nice. It’s a great place for the kids,” Dante Chick Jr. said.
Trustee Rich Harkins said the return of the festival was needed for the community.
“I think it’s huge for the community. We’re excited we can get people back together, and I think the residents of the township are ready to be back together,” he said.
As for the return to normal, Harkins said hosting in-person meetings for the last two months signified a “slow start,” but the festival allows for more normalcy.
“This is a giant step to getting back to normal,” he added. “We’ve been hearing from people every day about the festival.”
Trustee Marvin McBride said the festival isn’t only a transition to normal, it’s a “jumping base to move us forward.”
“This is ours and we’re proud of it … it’s like we’re starting all over,” McBride said. “We’re going to move Weathersfield forward.”
Today’s festivities include a parade at 5 p.m. with the festival to follow, and Saturday the festival is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Live music will be featured both nights as well.