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ISSUE: 2012 edition of Heartland
OUR VIEW: Delivering on promises
Despite a compressed planning schedule that challenged organizers, the Heartland Festival in the Park succeeded in providing a fun weekend.
Returning to its traditional late August weekend, the first city-run version of Elizabethtown's annual Heartland provided some new elements including mud volleyball and a compact vendor area that created a more intimate atmosphere at Freeman Lake Park.
In its early days when it was known as the Kentucky Heartland Festival, the weekend became a statewide attraction. Once ranked among the state's must-see tourism events, Heartland since has lost some of that luster.
In fact, it was long ago overshadowed as a tourist attraction by the Glendale Crossing Festival.
Heartland has gone through many revisions during its tenure. It's seen name changes, a date change and a change back. It survived a few years with a dry lake and avoided a conflict with last year's heavy blasting required for installation of a sewer line across the park.
The balloon glow on Friday serves as a reminder of the Buck Chase hot-air contest that was once the weekend's signature event. For the community at large, the sole event that occurs outside Freeman Lake Park holds the greatest attraction. And returning to fall helped the festival parade regain participation from high school bands that sets it apart.
In recent years, the festival identity has shifted frequently. It hosted a highly praised welcome home for Vietnam veterans followed by a not-so-successful concert theme.
The most significant change this year was the shift from being a Chamber of Commerce event to being operated by city government. That transition seemed to work.
Events Coordinator Sarah Vaughn should be commended for actively soliciting detailed feedback from the Heartland guests. That's the best way to build the event's participation and return it to prominence.
Heartland may not earn back its spot on the list of Kentucky's finest festivals. Perhaps that's not even an appropriate goal. If it manages to bring a few thousand smiles to the folks who take part, that's achievement enough.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.