Friendship Festival marks 38 years

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

The Friendship Festival, now in its 38th year, took to the streets and Mosher Park on Saturday. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

RAVENA — The Friendship Festival marked its 38th year in the village of Ravena this weekend.

Always held on the last Saturday in August, this year the festival got off to a very special start — a parade honoring the 125th anniversary of the Ravena Fire Department (see accompanying article).

After the parade concluded everyone headed to nearby Mosher Park for the games, bounce houses, vendors, demonstrations and more.

There were several new activities this time around, including a foam party, a pie eating contest and a science exhibit and show.

This year’s festival was organized by Village Trustee Caitlin Appleby, Tina Hotaling, Chuck and Kristina King, and Yvonne Shackelton.

“It is wonderful to have the community come out like this because this is just one in a series of community events that are happening this year,” Shackelton said. “I think it is really building community spirit. We had the Music and Arts Festival in the spring and we have something new coming this fall. We are trying to do something every season in the community and the Friendship Festival is something we have done every summer for years.”

Hotaling said this year’s festival had great weather, which was gratifying after last year’s rainy event.

“It’s so exciting to see people share and get excited about the lead-up to this year’s festival, so I think it’s already successful,” Hotaling said. “Everything else that happens will be gravy on top.”

Nine-year-old Bella Darlington played in a play area with her brother Christian Darlington and Thomas Wright, waiting for the bounce houses to open at 1 p.m. She said she was already having a great time.

Bella Darlington, Christian Darlington and Thomas Wright, left to right, check out the Jenga blocks at the annual Friendship Festival. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

“I really like the Jenga blocks and the Connect Four, and I’m really excited to go on the bounce houses,” Bella said.

One of the new activities at this year’s festival was Mad Science, an exhibit and demonstration of all things STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to spur kids’ imaginations. Brandon Wiegert, whose wife Margaret Liberti owns Mad Science, was setting up the exhibit prior to its 1 p.m. start.

“We have a number of different STEM-based activities. It is really geared towards kids of elementary school age,” Wiegert said.

Kids played with insta-snow, used Snap Circuits to build functional Lego houses, stacking tops and toys that demonstrate physics, among others.

“A lot of it is just getting kids interested in science with the different cool things that are available for them to explore,” Wiegert said.

Brandon Wiegert, whose wife Margaret Liberti owns “Mad Science,” sets up the display and booths where kids could explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) projects of all kinds. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

For many families, the annual festival is a tradition they recall from when they were growing up, and one they shared with their kids as well.

“We have been bringing the kids here since they were young,” resident Kelly Meacheam said. “It’s an annual thing — you can’t not go.”

For others, the Friendship Festival was a new experience. Dawn Fountain, of Athens, came with her daughter Kira for the first time.

“My mother-in-law moved up to the Ravena area and we figured we would come and check it out,” Fountain said. “We are having a lot of fun.”

The festival is both a tradition for local families and a way to share Ravena’s offerings with others from outside the community, Deputy Mayor Nancy Warner said.

“We are continuing a tradition of 38 years. I think we have only missed two years the whole time,” Warner said. “And it’s going to keep on going for many, many more years — younger and newer blood has come along and is picking it up and running with it, and that is what we need. It’s a free, fun family day for people from the community and for people outside the community to come here and see what we have to offer.”

Kids run into a bounce house at Saturday’s Friendship Festival. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media
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