By Susan Hartley
January 14, 2014
PIQUA – After 32 years, the Piqua Heritage Festival will no longer be the place to go over Labor Day weekend.
With much regret, the heritage festival board of directors on Monday voted to shut down the three-day Piqua festival, citing the lack of volunteers and money as the two reasons combined for their decision.
“If love for a festival could make it last forever, the Piqua Heritage Festival would, in fact, last forever,” said Cindy Hershberger Lillicrap, the 2013 festival chairman. “Unfortunately, in the real world it takes money and people, which we just don’t have enough of anymore.”
The festival got its “unofficial” start in 1981, Lillicrap said. Lou Havenar was instrumental in starting the festival, which showcased Piqua’s John Johnston Farm and Indian Agency, “offered a place for families to learn about local history, explore the area’s culture, eat fantastic food, and support local nonprofit organizations.”
Havenar served as the festival’s 1982 chair, and according to Lillicrap, along with several of his family members and other Piqua volunteers, brought the end-of-summer tradition to Miami County.
According to a press release issued Tuesday night, each year the festival requires roughly 2,000 volunteers and $90,000 to run. In its time, it helped hundreds of nonprofits raise funds, and catered to thousands of local families. As attendance dwindled and costs rose in the last five years, budget cuts were made. It was not enough to make up the deficit, the release stated.
During a Tuesday night interview, Lillicrap said the 14 members of the festival board had been slowly cutting favorites during the past few years. It was decided Monday that more cuts would take away from the goal of the festival.
“It has been more difficult in the last three or four years,” she said. “We keep losing volunteers and not getting new people to help. It’s really those two thing coupled together that made the decision Monday.”
Lillicrap continued: “There was a lot talked about, talking about cutting back…but in the last few years, we’ve cut costs and cut costs and cut costs. There was very little of anything left to cut that wouldn’t affect the quality of the festival.”
Andy Hite, site director at Johnston Farm, said Tuesday afternoon that the farm board “would be looking at other options. It’s too early to speculate on anything” specific to take the place of the festival, which brought thousands of visitors to Piqua’s historical site.
In her press release to the Daily Call, Lillicrap said: “We would like everyone who enjoyed the festival to know that we did everything we could to save it, and that we are as sad as you are to see it go. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the festival, whether you donated your time, your money, or simply came to enjoy the weekend with us. Your efforts are appreciated.”
Lillicrap said Tuesday that the current festival board members would be sending out letters to notify vendors, encampment and craft participants that the 2014 festival has been canceled. The information also will be posted to the festival’s website.