Making summer happen

FESTIVAL FUN: Organizers set up for this year’s Mecosta Days. (Pioneer file photo)

FESTIVAL FUN: Organizers set up for this year’s Mecosta Days. (Pioneer file photo)

Dedicated residents plan parties, parades, more at summer festivals

MECOSTA COUNTY — Residents venturing out the past few weekends have had no problem finding entertainment. Festival season is in full-swing.

But what goes into making celebrations like Mecosta Days, Barryton Homecoming Days and Morley Celebration on the Pond happen?

The short answer is a lot of work.

Just as each small town has its own unique celebration of community, each celebration has a group of people who put in work year-round to make sure visitors have a variety of things to enjoy and residents have something to be proud of.

One of the obstacles of putting on summer entertainment is money, according to Diane Diehm, president of the Mecosta Area Committee, which arranges the annual Mecosta Days celebration. The MAC tries to secure as much money as possible from grants in order to host an event that won’t cost local families a lot of money. Mecosta Days took place July 24 through 26 this year.

“It’s constant work trying to find someone to support the  event,” she said. “Most grants don’t usually involve giving away entertainment.”

Obtaining support from larger corporations, instead of directly from local businesses, is better for the community, according to Diehm.

“Our local merchants are hit up every year by groups looking for donations, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, golf teams, et cetera,” she said. “Those businesses only have so much to give – in a small community it’s a real hardship to constantly be giving people $100, $200, or $500, it really adds up fast. So I ask them to go to their vendors, instead of taking something off the shelves of the businesses.”

Corporations have been forthcoming with their support, from coolers and beer signs donated to the auction and bottles of water from Ice Mountain, to a donation from Yoplait of 2,000 containers of yogurt for a previous year, Diehm said.

“Having the yogurt was fun, but it was a little harder to maintain than water,” Diehm said. “It cost quite a bit for ice to keep the yogurt cool.”

Another obstacle to organizing events is time, according to Morley Celebration on the Pond board Vice President Dana Myers. Celebration on the Pond takes place Aug. 7 through 8.

“As the time draws close, there are never enough hours in the day,” she said. “The board members all have jobs, homes and families they have to keep balanced while they’re working on the event.”

Having a diverse group of people united to bring entertainment in the community is essential to the process, Myers said.

“The board members all come from different lines of work, so we all bring different strengths to the planning,” she said. “We all know different people, so collectively we know a lot of people who can help make the event happen.”

Summer festival planners unanimously say communication plays a central role in organizing each event. Phone calls and emails have been flying back and forth for years, but the advent of new communication avenues has rewritten the rules of the game.

“Social media plays a major part in organizing the celebration,” Myers said. “Connecting with us over Facebook allows the public to ask us questions about the event and it’s a great tool for communication with vendors.”

The most important part of putting on a summer festival is dedication, according to Remus Heritage Days Treasurer Debbie Young. Heritage days took place from July 17 through 19 in Remus.

“When you volunteer it’s a thankless job, you just do it for the fun of it,” Young said. “There’s a lot work in the preparation, and by the time the weekend’s over there’s a select few of us who are just exhausted.”

Finding people willing to exhaust themselves can be a challenge, said Barryton Homecoming Days board Chair Katie Bazaire. Homecoming Days is taking place from July 31 to Aug 2.

The annual Barryton summer celebration had some help from the younger generation this year, with the addition of an ATV poker chip trail to the festivities. Bazaire said she is happy to have the extra help, since the trail is being handled completely by the people who brought the idea forward.

But the need for fresh
volunteers is looming.

“I don’t know how long we’ll be able to keep organizing the event, we’re getting tired,” she said. “It’s inevitable that if nobody steps up, shows interest and takes over, we can’t do this forever.”

After all the effort that goes into events, summer festivals are even entertaining to watch during the setup, Diehm said, noting the filling of the Ultimate Air Dog’s competition pool, which sets up on Main Street during Mecosta Days, is particularly fun to watch.

“It’s interesting to see how it all gets put together, from shutting the streets down on Friday, to getting the pool erected. Some people come in just to watch that going on,” she said.


Posted by Adam Gac

Adam is the Pioneer City/County Reporter, covering government in Mecosta County. He can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at (231) 592-8347.

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