April 20, 2014

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Pioneer Days canceled over dropping attendance

VERMILION — The Lorain County Metro Parks has canceled this year’s Pioneer Days event.

“We’re going to take a step back and evaluate the festival,” said Sarah Sharp, the Metro Parks’ public information officer.  “We’d like to bring something back that’s bigger and better.”

The annual event had been held at the Mill Hollow area of the Vermilion River Reservation over two days in September for 30 years.

It had seen a drop-off in attendance over the past few years, according to Sharp.

“In its heyday, when it was really popular, we’d see about 30,000 people,” she said.  “In the past few years it’s been only 5,000 to 10,000.”

The cost of running the festival also contributed to this year’s break. “With setup and staff time and tear down, it was almost a weeklong process,” Sharp said.

The festival attracted artists who demonstrated old-fashioned crafts like pottery, spinning and candle-dipping, as well as vendors who prepared food from yesteryear in front of onlookers.

“We aimed to take people back to the 1800s in Lorain County,” Sharp said.

Local groups like the Lions Club and 4-H would also have booths at the festival, Sharp said. Around 70 to 80 booths would line the park.

The Metro Parks will be holding a similar, but smaller event, for Lorain County students on Sept. 11 called Pioneer Craftsmen Experience. The focus of this field trip day will be on demonstrations, with no food vendors in sight.

Metro Parks officials are still in the brainstorming phase of an updated festival, according to Sharp.

“We’re trying to see what other people are doing,” she said.

But it should still be an educational event when it’s finished.

“The Vermilion River Reservation has a lot of history,” Sharp said.  “We’d like to keep that part of the festival, but we might be adding other elements.”

Contact Alison Dietz at (440) 329-7128 or metro@chroniclet.com.