November 24, 2014

Elyria
Showers
53°F
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Great weather pleases International Festival organizers

LORAIN — International Festival organizers say they’ve been praying for good weather this weekend.

And, so far, it looks like those prayers have been answered.

Sunny weather and temperatures that are warm but not too hot are the perfect formula for a good, steady bazaar turnout, according to Lorain International President Nina Wooldridge.

“It’s been going very smoothly,” she said Saturday night. “We have just been blessed with phenomenal weather.

“It’s a peaceful crowd and no problems. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

As of late Saturday night, the festival had 14,000 paid admissions, Wooldridge said, adding that that number doesn’t include people such as volunteers and entertainers who come to the festival but don’t pay to get in.

Lorain police Lt. Mark Carpentiere echoed Wooldridge’s sentiments.

“It’s a really well-behaved crowd,” he said. “A lot of people and good weather. We’ve had no incidents at all.”

This year’s festival included a new partnership with the Black River Kayak-a-thon, which was held Saturday morning. The event is in its second year but was not previously held during International Festival.

“It went really well,” according to Lorain Utilities Director Corey Timko. “We had a lot of participants — a lot of racers and a lot of ‘floaters,’ which are just casual individuals from the community who want to come down and enjoy the river.”

Timko estimates 60 or 70 people participated, paddling kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and other watercraft. Last year’s inaugural event was held to spotlight cleanup work on the Black River that was done as a result of grant money.

“We did it last year, we got such a positive reaction that we did it again this year, so we’re hoping to get the same result,” Timko said. “I see a lot of the floaters out there when they’re coming by — I was at one of the stations — and they’re all happy and having a great time.”

Kayak-a-thon first-place winners were Renee Whittenberger in the long race; Mike Foley, in short race 1; David Rowland, in short race 2; Bryce Tuck, in short race 3; and James Conant and Tom Fabbro in the canoe race.

Two paddleboards were also raffled off to participants, one to the racers and one to the “floaters.”

Marilyn DeJesus, the racer who won a paddleboard, wasted no time trying out her new toy. She hopped on it just minutes later and paddled home from the festival site at Black River Landing to her home at HarborWalk.

Back at the festival bazaar, it was hard to find anyone who wasn’t happy with how the festival has played out this year.

“Everyone’s happy with the way we’ve got things set up,” Wooldridge said.

At one of the Puerto Rican booths, the Rev. Bill Thaden of Sacred Heart Chapel said business has been so good he’s had to turn people away, asking them to come back later.

“We’ve had a hard time keeping up,” he said. “We hate turning people away, but we tell them to come back in a half hour.”

He said he and his church members consider International Festival a warmup to their own Sacred Heart Festival, which is the second weekend in July.

Josephine Sison of Amherst, who was manning the booth dedicated to the spotlight Filipino nationality Saturday night, said response to the Philipine culture has been great.

“Many of them don’t know what the dances mean, but they enjoy the music,” which is rooted in Spanish, she said.

The Lorain Lions are enjoying their time in the spotlight as well, according to past President Dan Smith.

“You’ve got a lot of people coming up and asking about the Health and Dentistry and about joining the Lions,” he said. “This is the way to do it — to mingle with the people.”

International President Wooldridge said she’s satisfied with the festival so far and hopes attendance reaches 25,000 to 30,000 by the end of the weekend.

But that’s not what really matters, she said.

“Just to walk through here and see the smiles, that’s what this festival is all about,” she said. “And the people talking. People talking and sharing. That’s what this is all about.”