Fire damage won't stop Garrettsville festival

by DAN POMPILI RECORD-COURIER REPORTER Published:

Garrettsville -- This village isn't letting a few messes get in the way of the year's biggest event.

Mayor Rick Patrick said the March 22 fire, road projects and construction won't stop Summerfest from kicking off June 27.

"That's the main thing right now, just focusing on getting the town to look its best as much as possible for that," he said.

The annual summer event runs June 27-29. But preparations may come down to the wire, as the village deals with the aftermath of the fire that destroyed a quarter of its downtown; a state paving project, a county bridge replacement, and other construction and demolition projects.

"When the fire hit us, everything hit us all at once," Patrick said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is still putting the finishing touches on a $2.4 million paving project along Route 82 that ran from Sheldon Road in Mantua Township to the Trumbull County line.

"They're still working on it, but they've mostly made it through Garrettsville, and that's all we're concerned about," Patrick said.

Portage County also has been working to replace the Liberty Street bridge since April, but Patrick said county officials have told him it will be finished by the end of the month.

Paul's Grist Mill at Water and Windham streets was sold to developer Mike Maschek last month and the rear half of that building is being demolished. The gas and service station next to the IGA grocery store was torn down June 12.

Burned buildings from the March fire have been cleared away, while Pizza Hut begins construction of a new building. Meanwhile, a new intermediate school is going up next to James A. Garfield Elementary.

OFFICIALS SAY the work just means the village is starting anew, giving them all the more reason to celebrate at Summerfest.

"A lot of people were concerned whether the festival would even be able to go on, but it'll go on and it'll be just as good as ever," said Summerfest organizer Aaron King, who added some things have changed this year, but mostly for the good.

The rides won't be downtown because of insurance concerns, King said. Instead, they'll be moved to Sky Plaza.

"It's a bigger and better kids fun land, and we'll be able to fit more rides," he said. "But it's going to be a pretty hefty walk from there to the festival, about a quarter-mile or so, so that's the only positive way to spin that."

But festivalgoers can take a shuttle, a new feature this year.

The committee has worked with the James A. Garfield school district to provide parking at the high school and Sky Plaza, and run shuttles to the festival entrance at Windham Street. Those will run from 4 to 11 p.m. June 28 and 5 to 11 p.m. June 29.

King said officials also reached out to the firefighters who helped control the March blaze.

"In appreciation of all 34 fire departments that showed up that day, we invited them to lead off the grand parade on Sunday at 12:30, and we're going to compensate them with some festival money for food, and hopefully they'll spend some time here," King said.

The festival's selected charity this year is the Garrettsville Strong fund, and King said it falls in line with their theme: "Rocking to Rebuild."

Email: dpompili@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4156

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