Downtown Van Wert was packed Saturday for the Harvest Moon Festival. (DHI Media/Sam Shriver)
Downtown Van Wert was packed Saturday for the Harvest Moon Festival. (DHI Media/Sam Shriver)

 

By Sam Shriver

Times Bulletin Staff Writer

VAN WERT — Downtown Van Wert came alive Saturday for the seventh annual Harvest Moon Festival.

The event was a collaboration between Main Street Van Wert and Visit Van Wert.

“It’s a 50-50 partnership,” said Kim Fleming, director of Visit Van Wert. “When we were planning this we had a spreadsheet and we took different leadership roles. We had vendors. We had food trucks and then we had KidZone. So we just had to do different pieces of the festival.”

People got the chance to try out food from several food vendors as well as visit the numerous craft booths along Main Street.

“The whole idea of Harvest Moon, for one, is just to celebrate fall,” said Joe Dray, executive director of Main Street Van Wert. “It started a long time ago when the Rib Fest kind of went out and the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, which is Now Visit Van Wert, was looking for an event to put on and was looking for a partner to kind of join in on that, so they partnered with Main Street and we kind of stepped up and they stepped up and the Harvest Moon (Festival) was created and we’ve kind of carried on that tradition year after year since.”

The organizations continue to try new things and hope to build them into something bigger.

“I think it (Harvest Moon Festival) has grown considerably,” Dray said. “People know what’s going on. They know what Harvest Moon’s all about so it is hard for us to get that initial word out for it. For instance, we had the Block Party in July. It was really hard getting the word out for a new event, whereas this event is kind of established and people just know what to expect.”

One new event was the Van Wert Freedom Cruise Car Show.

“Joe Dray asked me if we could do a car event and we talked about cruising because that’s kind of our specialty,” said Jim Dettrow, founder of the Van Wert Freedom Cruise. “I said with Main Street closed that would be a little difficult but I said I think we could do a car show and he said let’s go for it.”

More than 80 cars lined Main Street for the show.

“It’s nice, but I’ll be honest with you, I’m a guy that always wants more,” Dettrow said.

Downtown Van Wert is undergoing a facelift with a multi-million dollar project spearheaded by the Van Wert County Foundation.

The Harvest Moon Festival gave people a chance to see some of the progress that’s being made to transform the downtown.

“It is very important that they can still feel like they need to be able to have a festival come together to see what’s going on downtown because some of them aren’t here often,” Fleming said.

“I don’t think that you can appreciate it all and see it all yet because a lot of the work that’s been going on is done on the inside so far,” Dray said. “You’re going to start to see as we get toward the end of the year, towards next year, things start to improve and so right now it’s kind of like everyone looks at it as an eyesore but it also reminds people we’re investing in downtown to make it a vibrant place for people to come work, shop and live.”