Expo’s a distant memory, the Franklin County Fair’s been over for a month and now it’s time for our annual community fall festivals even if the calendar says there’s still a month of summer left.
Kicking things off is Swallowfield Days, now in the third year as the first of the festivals instead of the last.
“We changed the date in 2010 from the last weekend in September to the last weekend in August,” said Pete Wise, the main shaker and mover behind the festival.
“It got to where in September we were going up against events in Frankfort and Franklin County to the south and Owen County to the north.” And then there were those times when the drought of the current summer decided to end dramatically on Swallowfield Weekend.
This year the two-day event that turns the spotlight on the small northern Franklin County community of Swallowfield is set for Saturday and next Sunday, Aug. 25-26, with Saturday being the primary day of the festival and Sunday serving as something of an “afterglow” time with church services, food and some singing.
“We’ll have all the usual stuff,” said Wise. “A car cruise-in, jumpers for the kids, a petting zoo and pony rides.”
One of the highlights of the festival has always been the car raffle. Each year Wise, who owns his own auto body repair shop, lovingly restores an old car that’s then raffled off during the festival. This year’s car is a 1996 Ford Mustang convertible. Tickets are $5 each.
“It’s a really sharp car,” Wise said. “My wife (Jane) says she wishes we could keep it.”
Wise has always been particularly pleased when someone who really needs a car has his or her ticket drawn. “That really makes me feel good about the work that went into restoring it.”
On Saturday there’ll be a yard sale in the yards of the Swallowfield Baptist Church and the neighborhood, gospel music signing all day, lots of food and more. Hours are roughly 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Wise said he visited with vendors along the just-completed 127 Yard Sale and invited them to come set up at Swallowfield Days.
As for visitors, he expects the same steady flow he observed last year. “It was just steady,” he said, “never overwhelming at any time.”
A major component of these small festivals is fellowship.
“A lot of people who have roots in the community come back,” Wise said. “They just draw up a chair, sit and talk and reminisce.”
Like the other “satellite communities” in Franklin County, most of their glory days are yesterdays as people moved to town, neighborhood schools were consolidated to become “more efficient” and mom and pop grocery stores ultimately closed. The people who still live in places like Swallowfield, Bridgeport and Switzer either work in town or are retired.
While Pete and Jane Wise handle most of the planning, Pete says it would be impossible to pull the day off without the dedication of countless volunteers from the community and churches. In addition to the Baptist church where Wise has been a member since age 9, there’s the Swallowfield Church of Christ.
“Everyone just really cooperates and helps out. I just hope the weather ‘cooperates’ for our weekend is like it was supposed to be for this one – cool and dry!”