VAN WERT – Vickie Schulte, president of the Peony Festival Board, said earlier this week that board members are taking important decisions concerning this year’s festival to the community.

“A month and a half ago, we did an online contest on the Facebook page,” said Schulte. “We asked people to make suggestions for a theme for this year’s festival. We are still taking entries for, ‘Name the Theme,’ until this Monday, Dec. 11. We will vote on it at our board meeting and the winner will be announced on Friday, Dec. 15.”

The winner will receive a gift basket, special Peony Festival recognition and a chance to ride in the Peony Festival Parade.

“It allows somebody from the community to think of a theme and get recognized,” said Schulte.

As soon as that contest has been determined, another will start on Dec. 15 when board members start taking nominations for this year’s grand marshal. The grand marshal contest will go through Jan. 15, Schulte said.

“They can submit their entries by calling 419-238-4002,” said Schulte. “If there is no answer, they can leave a message.”

The person whose grand marshal nomination is chosen will also receive a gift basket, special Peony Festival recognition and the opportunity to ride in the parade.

The Peony Festival is a non-profit organization and receives its funding from such sources as grants, the Van Wert County Foundation and various fund-raisers. One of the large money raisers will take place Feb. 26 with a quarter auction at the Middle Point Community Building. The event begins at 5:30 p.m.

At the turn of the century, during the early the 1900’s, Van Wert area gardeners grew peonies in huge fields around the city. At that time, Van Wert was known as the “Peony Capital of the World.” The first Sunday in June was considered Peony Sunday and in 1932 the celebration was expanded into the first Peony Festival.

The festivals continued until 1960 with interruptions during WWII and again during the 1950’s. Crowds topped 100,000 in numbers at the annual event in its early years, with two parades being held on Saturday, initially. After a number of years without a festival, in 1992 it was decided to resurrect the Peony Festival which has run annually for the last 25 years.

This year’s festival will be held June 1-3. This year’s annual queen contest will be held on Friday, April 6, at the Marsh Foundation.