July 25, 2014

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Good weather, people make International Festival a success

LORAIN — More than 22,000 people attended the Lorain International Festival bazaar this weekend, and as festivities wound down Sunday evening it was nearly impossible to find anyone with a bad word to say about it.

“This has been an awesome, successful festival,” Lorain International Festival President Nina Wooldridge said. “We couldn’t have asked for better weather, and the people were great.”

Newly crowned Queen Taylor Cawthon agreed.

“Words can’t explain this weekend. It’s been a blast,” she said.

Lorain police Lt. Mark Carpentiere called this year’s festival “one of the best year’s I’ve seen.”

Police had no major incidents, he said. Just before the festival closed Sunday, officers responded to a fight between two 10-year-olds. Earlier in the day, at the parade, an argument between spectators got physical, and police responded. No one was arrested in either incident.

“That’s the biggest problem we’ve had all weekend, so that’s pretty good,” Carpentiere said of the juvenile fight.

At the always-popular Hungarian booth, chicken paprikas dinners and haluska (cabbage and noodles) were sold out by mid-afternoon Sunday.

“It’s kind of like Disney World over here in Hungary,” Greg Smith said of the booth, with its roped-off area to contain the growing line. “It was stacked up. I was out there directing people.”

Cabbage rolls and dumplings and gravy were available at a discount as the festival wound down, however.

At the Greek booth, Emmanuel Tsambounigris praised the good weather for helping drive food sales.

He was hard-pressed to say which of his dishes was a best seller, first citing grape leaves, then spanakopita, gyros and souvlaki.

Tim Kiedrowski, owner of Kiedrowski’s Simply Delicious Bakery, said he was having a good weekend at the Polish booth.

Not surprisingly, his ever-popular snoogles were the top seller, but a close second was a new treat, maple bacon cream sticks.

Kiedrowski said he’d sold 170 dozen snoogles by the close of the festival Saturday night but didn’t have any numbers for Sunday.

“We never sell out,” he added. “Bad business people sell out. We keep going, and we keep going until the end.”

He estimated that business was a little slower than last year, which he blamed on the economy.

“The weather was conducive,” he said.

Kiedrowski, who is in his 18th year as a vendor at the festival added, “Every year you learn one little step that makes a difference” for operating the booth smoothly.

In the festival’s kids area, Debra and Tim James from Genesis Accounting on Oberlin Avenue in Lorain were volunteering their time.

“It’s been busy since we got here,” Debra James said. “I’d say it’s been pretty successful.

“It’s been a great mood. Everyone has been pretty polite. We’ve been impressed with how polite everyone’s been.”

Former International Festival Queen Natalie Rodriquez, who stepped into the role of parade chairwoman this year, said the hour-and-a-half-long parade went off without a hitch.

“The weather was perfect, and the sponsors were great,” she said.

As for the entire festival, she added, “It’s been great. We’ve had huge crowds, nice and steady. Everyone came out from the city of Lorain and lots of visitors from outside the city.”

The spotlight organization Lorain Lions were happy to provide vision screenings for a handful of children at the festival this year, according to President Douglas Kayle.

He couldn’t provide specific numbers but said “Two of the last three that we did needed further exams because they probably needed glasses.”

He said this is the first time the Lions have done random vision screenings because they normally operate based on referrals from the schools.

“It couldn’t have been better,” Kayle said of the Lions’ festival experience. “We got the word out about what we do and why we do it.”

Lorain firefighters, who worked to “Fill the Boot” for the Muscular Dystrophy Association during the festival, said they didn’t yet know how much they’d raised.

“A lot of people donated, and it was a fun time,” Lorain Fire Department MDA coordinator Bret Brown said. “Anytime you can raise money for a great cause, especially MDA, it makes you feel better about yourself.”

Brown added that firefighters had sold nearly all of their “I heart LFD” T-shirts they had at the festival and will be taking orders at the fire station.

Wooldridge, the Lorain International president, is happy for what such a successful festival says about the city.

To see so many people come out and have a good time should dispel any concerns about “the black cloud that they say Lorain has over it,” she said.

Cawthon, the newly crowned queen, said she is “ready to get thie show on the road” as far as attending other festivals as an ambassador for the city and International Festival around the state of Ohio.

Until then, she’s just trying to come to terms with her new title.

“It still hasn’t set in, but today at the parade, when we were at City Hall, I just looked down and said ‘I’m the queen of this festival this year. I’m the queen,’ ” she said.

Meanwhile, plans are already under way for next year’s International Festival. According to Wooldridge, Macedonians will be the spotlight nationality. She said she has a spotlight organization in mind, but has not approached them yet. The festival will be the last full weekend in June, meaning the bazaar will fall on June 28, 29 and 30.