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ISSUE: Ready for another Heartland Festival
OUR VIEW: Re-establish a baseline for success
The Heartland Festival will return late this summer for its 30th year.
Over the course of its history, the event has evolved, changed and re-invented itself. It began as a community celebration and grew into a spectacle known statewide.
For a time, the Heartland Festival was listed as one of Kentucky’s premiere events. It appeared on Top 10 lists in state tourism calendars.
Somehow as it matured, some of the luster disappeared. For a time, the temporary draining of Freeman Lake robbed a little from the venue’s charm and unfavorable weather frequently erased the Buck Chase balloon race, which served as the signature event for many years.
More recently the festival received a huge influx with its Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans theme two years ago. But the momentum collapsed with a move to an earlier date and an attempt to add major music acts last year.
Maybe Heartland was a victim of its own successes, growing to a point where participating requires a hike across the park’s hillsides. What might be viewed as an element of the festival’s charm also could negate the fun factor for families with young children or elderly guests.
This year’s celebration will be the first directed by city government after the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce bowed out of the role. It promises to be a just-good-enough event, which for most people is just fine. Although the festival this year might be abbreviated from its past grandeur, it will provide residents and visitors with a local activity worth enjoying. It also provides local clubs and organizations the fundraising opportunity many have relied upon to continue their local service work.
The city’s new event coordinator, Sarah Vaughn, has jumped into her job with a laundry list of responsibilities and priorities, including creation of a new Founders Day event on July 4 and year three of the increasingly successful Cruisin’ the Heartland.
Producing a late August weekend festival in barely four months is a significant task. It’s not surprising many of the treasured events are back and the plans are modest.
Hopefully, this year’s festival will serve as a baseline for re-examining the festival’s value as a tourist attraction and as a good time for all.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.