It was just a tad damp (OK, it was wet and a little cool) Thursday in uptown Galion.
Still, plenty of folks made their way to the square and beyond to take in the sights and sounds and aromas of the annual Oktoberfest Celebration. In some fashion, area residents have enjoyed a celebration at this time of year for decades.
The current reincarnation of this event has been going on for about 40 years. First it was organized by the Galion Moose, and in recent years, it has been headed up by local businessman and entrepreneur Kent Gimbel.
It’s not quite the same event it was 30-something years ago, but neither is Galion the same community it was 30-something years ago.
As a young adult in Galion, I remember that Cleveland TV celebrities Big Chuck and Hoolihan would make their way to Galion and rev up the crowd on a Friday or Saturday night. There was one big stage on the square, and I seem to recall a big pizza eating contest and all manner of crazy activities. Later, it was Big Chuck and Little John, yet the antics remained the same.
But no matter the year, the music and food was always the thing I remembered most.
I believe it was at this celebration that I enjoyed my first elephant ear and maybe my first legitimate fair sausage sandwich, with peppers and onions and plenty of juice (grease) and mustard running down my chin and onto my shirt.
The style of music has changed through the years, from rock and roll, to country, to today’s mix of local rock, classical, country, Christian and more.
I miss the big parade we used to have.
I remember fighting for the pieces of candy along the sidewalks thrown to the kids.
When I got a little older, I also remember sneaking a beer, or hard apple cider or three — OK, five or six — before we even showed up at the Oktoberfest celebration. Maybe that’s why it always seemed like so much fun.
But I do miss the parades. As a kid, that was my favorite.
I hope the weather cooperated a little better Friday. As I write this, it looks good now, and local merchants and food vendors are prepping and cleaning and drying things off and hoping for the best. That’s all they can do when it comes to the weather. They are always at the mercy of Mother Nature, and she’s been kind of a witch so far this year.
However, Saturday’s forecast looks OK.
At the Galion Inquirer, we put up a tent on the sidewalk and were giving away newspapers and copies of some of our other periodicals, such as our popular wedding planner and community guide. We also had some pencils and other things to hand out.
I took my laptop and sat outside from about 11:30 to 3:30 yesterday in our tent, meaning to get some work done.
It didn’t turn out that way, and it didn’t bother me a bit.
I was surprised by the number of people who saw a break in the weather, and even before the music started, were making their way in and among the food vendors and local merchant displays. Several of the merchants were ready for the early-arrivers and sold a few of their favorite items.
One thing I did learn is that the smell of grease and oil coming from a deep fryer or a flat-top grill is much better when there is something actually in that fryer or on that grill. The french fries, the funnel cakes, the hamburger patties and sausage and onion and peppers made for a much more appetizing smell that did the grease and oil warming at 11 a.m. F
And as I sat outside, I was amazed at the number of area residents in and about who stopped and chatted — or lectured for 45 minutes as did one man. I met and got reacquainted with some old friends, but I didn’t know must of these people, who stopped by. And EVERY SINGLE ONE had an interesting story to tell. It was the highlight of the day.
I am anything but an extrovert, so without sitting in my tent and being a captive audience for visitors, I would never have learned the things I did.
One thing was common among everyone I saw in the uptown area on Thursday. They were friendly, despite the pending rain and wind and cool weather. To a fault, everyone was smiling and having a good time.
If you get a chance Saturday, pack up the kids or parents or grandparents and make your way to the Oktoberfest celebration. The music starts at 1 p.m. and will continue until the celebration shuts down late in the evening. I guarantee you’ll have a good time and if you don’t leave with a full belly … well that’s your own fault.
By 1 p.m., the Ohio State game that starts at noon should already be decided. Rutgers shouldn’t provide too much trouble.
Or just stop by and grab some food from our vendors and take them home for a halftime or post-game meal.
However, if you’ve not made it uptown and feel on Sunday that you want to get up and do something to get the blood flowing, you can come to the square and perform a little community service.
A group called Experience Galion is looking for volunteers to do a little sprucing up Sunday afternoon. They will meet at the gazebo in the square at 1 p.m. and they’re planning on doing as much cleanup in the uptown areas as they can between 1-4 p.m. If you have work gloves, bring them along. But the only other thing you need to help out is a helping attitude.
Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer, Bellville Star and Morrow County Sentinel. Email him a firstname.lastname@example.org with comments or story ideas.