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Heartland Festival 2012 decision looms

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New events coordinator will consider 2012 festival's fate

By Ben Sheroan

Although faced with two July events on the immediate horizon, one of the first decisions facing Elizabethtown’s newly named events coordinator deals with the Heartland Festival.

Will the event occur on its traditional date on the fourth weekend in August or will Elizabethtown’s signature event skip 2012?

Sarah Vaughn, who will be introduced at Monday’s Elizabethtown City Council work session, begins work Wednesday. A primary function of her job is organizing events such as Cruisin’ the Heartland and creating new celebrations such as an Independence Day observance.

Determining if there’s enough time to properly organize the festival is an immediate task for Vaughn, Mayor Tim Walker said.

The Heartland Festival and Cruisin’, both established by the former Elizabethtown Chamber of Commerce, were adopted by city government after the merged countywide chamber elected to redirect its energy toward business support and development.

Walker reserved the fourth weekend of August at Freeman Lake Park to accommodate the festival but he does not view that as a commitment. He wants to ensure an effective event can be planned and staged.

“We don’t want to have one just to be having one,” Walker said.
He said input will be collected from festival volunteers and sponsors to determine if Heartland will be held this year.

Vaughn also said information from active festival volunteers is critical in making the initial decision regarding Heartland. She said she wants to determine “how the city stands on that and how the community feels about that.”

One volunteer said he considers April 15 to be a key date regarding Heartland 2012’s fate.

“I can have the parade put together if they have the theme within three weeks,” Nevelle Skaggs said Saturday.

Skaggs, who has directed the festival parade for a decade and has been involved with it since 1997, told Walker last week time is running out.

In the past, Bob Swope Ford has organized an annual contest to collect ideas and determine a parade theme. Skaggs said advertising, promotion and reviewing theme ideas must be completed soon to allow adequate time for entrants to prepare.

Skaggs welcomes a return to the late August schedule. He said the timing will allow organizers to recruit and hopefully secure participation from all local high school bands.

Selected in hopes of avoiding oppressive summer heat and humidity, last year’s earlier festival date eliminated the bands because school was out. The last weekend of August comes after the new school year begins and before the bands become heavily involved in the competitive marching season.

Ben Sheroan can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.