The Peony Festival Grand Parade is a staple of the annual Peony Festival. This year’s parade will take place at 5 p.m. on Saturday. (DHI Media/File Photo/Kirsten Barnhart)
The Peony Festival Grand Parade is a staple of the annual Peony Festival. This year’s parade will take place at 5 p.m. on Saturday. (DHI Media/File Photo/Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – The 2019 Peony Festival is set for June 7-9. This year’s theme is “Blooming with Traditions” and while there are plenty of old traditions returning, the festival has many new activities that residents will love and that may become a new tradition.

President of the Peony Festival Vickie Schulte said that many new items have been added this year to help keep the festival growing.

“When we start planning in August, the first thing on the agenda is, ‘what do we want to do this year and what new things do we want to do?’” said Schulte.

One of those new things is a tattoo contest on Friday. The tattoo contest will be flower themed. Those with a flower tattoo can register from 4-5 p.m. and judging will be from 5-6 p.m. near the Peony Patio beer garden.

The contest adds to the festival’s love for all things art, said Schulte.

“We thought that would interest all kinds of folks because it’s a form of art and we’re all about art,” said Schulte.

In addition to the tattoo contest promoting art, residents can stop by the Wassenberg Art Center to view the Jubilee Flower Show from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday and 1-4 p.m. on Sunday.

Also this year, D.O.N.N.A. (Disciplining Our Naughty Natured Animals): a demonstration of dog obedience by Donna Klinger will entertain. Klinger will show the audience what she can do with her Australian Shepherds, and will entertain residents at noon on Saturday at the bandstand in Fountain Park. Klinger.

While there is no color run this year, the Peony Festival filled the morning space with a time of relaxation and meditation. At 10 a.m. on Saturday, the YMCA will host yoga in the park.

“They will have 30 mats and it’s free to the public,” said Schulte who noted guests are welcome to bring their own mats as well.

Each year kids have a variety of fun and games to choose from, in keeping with the tradition, inflatables have returned, but with a new company to keep things fresh.

“Juggler Dave and Friends from Cincinnati will be there,” said Schulte of the kid’s activities. “He’s an interesting fellow. They do everything you think of circus-related – juggling, high walkers, stilts. We’re excited about that.”

Children’s activities, games, and inflatables will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday on Central Avenue.

Another new item this year is the Jerry Smith Memorial Historical Wagon Ride, which will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 pm. on Saturday.

Three years ago, Schulte was approached by Jerry Smith, who with his wife, Nan, owned Town and Country Carriage. Smith had approached Schulte with the idea of doing a historical ride through town. Smith passed away last year and as a way to honor him, the wagon tours have now been added to the weekend’s festivities.

“It’s going to be something we plan to do every year,” said Schulte who noted that the ride will last around 15-20 minutes. “It’s free but we are taking donations that will go right back to the Peony Festival to give back to the community.”

The Garden Tours are back on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. with the addition of the Children’s Garden which now features a Peony Garden. In addition to the Garden Tours though, a tour of community porches has been added. Pretty Porches takes residents to locations around town where residents can look at porches and vote for their favorite. Schulte noted that the contest allows for residents to take a walk through the community. Pick up a Garden Tour pamphlet at the Information Booth to locate the porches.

In addition to new activities, vendors will be present throughout Fountain Park again this year from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. Food vendors will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Peony Patio beer garden will open from 4-9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday at 7 p.m., the Fountain Park Summer Music Series will kick off with Turn It Up, The Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Experience. Several other musicians are set to perform throughout the weekend in the bandstand.

This year’s Peony Festival Grand Parade will take place on Saturday starting at 5 p.m. down Main Street.

“The tradition has been around forever,” said Schulte. “When it came back to town after a gap, I thought, ‘oh my!’ I was just taken by it because traditions like this just don’t last but here it has. It’s revived itself three times and has been going strong ever since. In my mind, this is what a good old fashioned, fun, free festival for families should be.”

For a complete schedule of events, visit The Times Bulletin or the Festival Information Booth during the Peony Festival for the 2019 Peony Festival Guide featuring Queen Jubilee XLIV Michaella Johnson.