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WaynesboroFest organizer worried about event

September 06, 2000

WaynesboroFest organizer worried about event



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Allie Kohler is a worried man and he's also a little dejected.

Kohler is the coordinator for the first Triennial WaynesboroFest Celebration, which begins a 10-day run Sept. 15.

That's less than a week-and-a-half away and Kohler thinks the poor community response may doom the festival in its first year.

The idea for WaynesboroFest stemmed from a $30,000 surplus left over from the sale of commemorative items from Waynesboro's highly successful, two-month-long Bicentennial Celebration in the summer of 1997. The money, coupled with the public acceptance and participation in the 1997 celebration, prompted the bicentennial committee to think of perpetuating the celebration with a triennial event.

Kohler isn't sure it will work. He sits in the festival's temporary office at 8 E. Main St., each afternoon surrounded by about $20,000 worth of buttons, booklets, T-shirts, sweat shirts, hats, mugs, plates, ceramics, little stuffed animals and collectibles, all emblazoned with the WaynesboroFest logo - and they aren't selling well.

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Profits from the sale were supposed to pay for the festival and leave a little seed money to start the next one in 2003.

The idea is to celebrate Waynesboro's existence every three years, much like Greencastle's Old Home Week has been celebrated in that neighboring community every three years since 1901.

"It seemed to click from the start," said Greencastle Mayor Frank Mowen. "They never had trouble getting it started. The first one went well so they decided to have it every three years. I heard they were having some trouble in Waynesboro."

"We're getting down to the wire," said Kohler, 62, a retired Waynesboro school teacher who coordinated the bicentennial celebration.

Kohler was encouraged by the fact that all nine narrated historic bus tours of the Waynesboro area scheduled during the celebration were booked as of Wednesday afternoon.

Other events weren't drawing as much interest, especially those aimed at celebrating the creative efforts of the community. They would include the memorabilia, art and flower shows and the photo contest, all of which would involve local residents displaying their creations at a day-long show at the middle school.

The planning committee bought 5,000 festival buttons that sell for $5 each. The price includes a festival program with pages of shopping discounts at local stores.

Fewer than 100 buttons have been sold so far, Kohler said. The committee is giving the programs out free.

The bicentennial parade was a bicentennial highlight, with more than 80 units marching through town. Half that many have signed up for the WaynesboroFest parade scheduled for Sept. 16.

All events except bingo in the 10-day celebration are free, he said. Tickets for the festival events can be picked up at the office on the square.

Bob and Lorraine Sheeley stopped by the office Wednesday afternoon to pick up tickets for the U.S. Air Force Band Concert on Sept. 19. They also bought buttons numbered with the years they graduated from high school - he in 1944, she in 1947.

"We're natives. We think this festival is good for Waynesboro. It's needed.," Lorraine Sheeley said. "It seems that celebrations like this bring us all together. We're hoping it will become like Old Home Week."

Carol Henicle, executive director of the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce, was optimistic that the festival would go well.

"People are so busy now they don't have time to plan ahead for things like they used to. I think there's still time to pull this one together."

"I don't understand why people wouldn't support it," Kohler said. "I don't know if it's because I expected more, which is possible, or if there is just apathy toward holding an event every three years. I don't know what will happen if it bombs out," he said.

"The worst case scenario is if it doesn't work, it doesn't work," Henicle said. "We'll know that we gave it our best shot."

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