By JEROD CLAPP
NEW ALBANY —
In 2011, rain shut down the festival early. Last year, dangerous winds cut everything off by a day. But this year, the weather was nothing short of perfect.
Harvest Homecoming finally got a break after two years of harsh conditions with clear skies and mild temperatures, keeping the booths open for all four of their scheduled days and bringing in big crowds.
Glenn Dethy, chairman of the Harvest Homecoming Executive Board, said they always hope for a record-breaking crowd, but it’s difficult to get an accurate headcount.
“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” Dethy said. “It’s warm during the day and cool at night — it’s perfect for Harvest Homecoming.”
But he said there are some indicators that give him and his crew of 500 volunteers an idea of whether they’re generating interest.
“Kids events are always big,” Dethy said. “Kids’ Day in the Tent was supposed to close up at 1 [p.m.], but it went until 2 [p.m.], that’s how many people we had there.”
Booth operators, selling crafts, knickknacks and food saw their share of business, too. Buddy Runyon, owner of Bert’s, ran his grilling operation on Market Street serving up pork chops, pulled pork and chicken. He said there was plenty of sunshine, but he thought the attendance was about the same as it has been in past years, even with bad weather.
“We thought with the weather, we’d have a little more [business], but it’s been about the same,” Runyon said. “You’ve got to take what you get. You can’t change people or the weather — it’s all a crapshoot.”
But he said in the 30 years he’s brought his grills to Harvest Homecoming, he’s had fun with it and wanted to participate more every year, such as donating his cooking for a private party for one lucky Harvest Homecoming Pin winner.
“These people [on the committee] are so great to work with,” Runyon said. “I used to sponsor the balloons, so now we donate on the pin sales. It’s just giving back.”
But businesses down one of New Albany’s main arteries have seen the good and the bad that comes with booths setting up in front of their buildings.
Shanda Sillings, owner of the Opal Gypsy on the corner of Market and Bank streets, said she was ringing up customers pretty consistently on the weekend of Harvest Homecoming. She said the festival always brings a lot of people into her store.
“I love it when Harvest comes around because it’s an influx of people for me and people who didn’t know I was here,” Sillings said. “[Saturday]’s been very steady.”
But she said part of that is because she doesn’t have any booths in front of her business to block the view of festival-goers. She said some of her colleagues aren’t as lucky as she is when booths start popping up.
“I’m one of the fortunate ones,” Sillings said. “It would be nice if they did something like move the booths down to allow the other businesses to flourish.”
Amber Fullmer came to the festival with her children and her husband, Jim, from Jeffersonville. She said even though they come to participate in some of the dance events, they have a good time checking out everything else, including the local businesses.
“I usually try coming down with my friends,” Fullmer said. “We like to hang out, just go through the booths, but I have to make sure to get my funnel cake.”
Dethy said whether people come down for the local businesses, the booths, the food or the entertainment, he and his crew are glad to volunteer their time so others can have fun.
“Somebody told me one time that it gets into your blood, and it does,” Dethy said. “I’ve been doing this for about 25 years. My oldest son is 15 and he comes with me in the morning and goes home late at night. He’s put in his share of 14-hour days with me.”