Capital Expo: A longtime tradition kicks off another year Thursday

By Kristina Belcher Published:

Growing up in Frankfort, some of my earliest memories revolve around the Capital Expo Festival. Every year I would beg my mom to take me for a funnel cake and lemonade — and my family never missed the annual fireworks.

Nowadays, I look forward to the vendors more than the food (or so I claim) but it’s still one of my favorite times of year.

The Expo has kept many of the original traditions throughout the years, while still adding new and exciting aspects.

This year’s Expo begins Thursday and continues through Saturday at the Capital Plaza Complex.
Here are a few things you can expect to see:

Vendors
“We started out as a small arts and crafts festival 41 years ago,” said Capital Expo Festival board president Stan Salchli, “and have grown to have food vendors, miscellaneous-type sales and, of course, arts and crafts.”

On the first level of the Capital Plaza Complex, arts and crafts vendors will be selling items such as wooden crafts, jewelry, florals, pottery, monogrammed items and even handmade fudge and local honey.

“We want arts and crafts that are homemade,” Salchli said, explaining that mass-made items have no place at Expo.

This year’s festival will feature four or five new vendors, he said, along with several prior favorites.

By walking to the upper level of the complex, you can find a wide variety of food venders — corndogs, funnel cakes, pork sandwiches and other hot and cold food and beverages.

“There’s no limit to the types of foods that we’ll have,” Salchli said.

Entertainment
Once you’ve gotten your fill of the featured cuisine, you can enjoy the scheduled entertainment.

There are two stages set up in the complex, with entertainment running from about 11 a.m. to midnight each day.

“We have all kinds of classic rock, country, we even have an Elvis tribute this year,” Salchli said.

All of Expo is a tribute to honor the late Billy Noblitt, a Capital Expo Festival board member who died unexpectedly in January.

Noblitt was serving as board president at the time of his death.

“He was a big Elvis fan,” Salchli said. “So for those Elvis lovers, it’d be a great time to come out.”

Salchli said they try to use as many local bands as possible when scheduling entertainers.

If music isn’t your thing, there are other options, including a “Cruise In” car and motorcycle show from 5-9 p.m. Saturday.

Salchli said this is the first time the show — put on by the Capital City Classic Auto Club — has featured motorcycles.

Then around 10 p.m. Saturday, the annual “Rumble on the River” fireworks will light up the sky.

“The fireworks are hopefully going to be another good show this year,” Salchli said.

Some fireworks will be shot from the Mero Street bridge, meaning roads will be closed from about 9:30 to 10:45 p.m.

For the kids
Salchli said the Children’s Festival is an opportunity for the entire family to enjoy Expo.

“We try to make Expo a good time for everybody,” he said.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, the festival offers free trackless train rides by the Olieka Shriners, free rides on Captain Carlos’ Pirate Ship, face painting, sand art and more.

This year, organizers have also added a photo booth, offering children free pictures with a number of fun props.

“Kids” of any age who are looking for a little excitement can find it at Expo’s carnival rides.

The rides will open Wednesday, Salchli said, for “armband night.” For a fee of $20, thrill seekers will receive an armband for unlimited rides.

Tickets will be sold for individual rides during the remainder of the festival.

Funnel Cake 5K
In another tribute to Noblitt, the theme of this year’s Funnel Cake 5K is “running through Frankfort one yard at a time” — a play on the wording of Noblitt’s real-estate slogan, “selling Frankfort one yard at a time.”

“It’s kind of a memorial run to Billy this year,” Salchli said.

The race will be 6 p.m. Friday and it costs $25 to participate. The entry fee includes a T-shirt.

“It’s for anybody who can come out and would like to run, participate and have a good time,” Salchli said.

Packet pick-up will be at Cool Comfort Shoes from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday or 10 a.m. to noon Friday.

Late registration and packet pick-up will be from 1-5:30 p.m. Friday in front of the main Expo stage.

Awards will be given for age groups, as well as the top male and female runners.

For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit www.capitalexpofestival.com, or find it on Facebook by searching “Capital Expo Festival.”

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