This town loves America

Centerville-Washington Township Americana Festival returns

By CC Hutten

Photo: The Centerville-Washington Township Americana Festival, including a 100-unit parade, begins with a concert and flag ceremony on July 3

From a 1972 sidewalk sale to a mile-long party, the Centerville-Township Americana Festival now expects over 75,000 people Independence Day weekend.

For 41 years, the people of the Dayton area have gathered to celebrate community, social welfare and what it means to be an American during the Fourth of July weekend.

For its 42nd year, the festival will include a 100-unit, 90-minute parade, street fair with more than 300 booths, 150-plus-vehicle antique automobile show, children’s area in the Park District Activity Center, 1,200-participant 5K run and a scholarship program, all closing off with a celebratory fireworks show at the Centerville High School football stadium.

2011 was the highlight year of the festival thus far, as it claimed the Best of Dayton Award for Fourth of July events and was televised on Fox News.

This year, the festival theme focuses on “Our Youth…America’s Future.” Three-year Executive Director Duke Lunsford first proposed the theme. Lunsford says they try to gauge where the festival is heading every year—and this year, it’s the future of America.

“We try to keep our themes patriotic,” Lunsford says. “The theme revolves around food, crafts, children’s area, car show… and all of those respective areas have chair-people.”

He and his wife have been associated with orchestrating the festival for eight years—normally, with a team of 15-17 members—and they don’t plan on slowing down.

Lunsford praises the volunteer-based team for taking time from their busy lives to assure the festival runs smoothly, a task that consists of immense monthly planning beginning in October.

“It’s absolutely amazing what these people do,” Lunsford says. “Some are not even retired. A lot of our volunteers hold down full-time jobs, and this is their way of giving back to the community.”

The board and the town pride themselves on keeping this tradition, subtly improving it every year. The only brand new changes this year are different vendors, “bouncy” inflatable houses in the children’s area and some additions to the parade.

“The bulk of it revolves around the same identical thing year-round, but there are things we tweak from time to time,” Lunsford says. One of the annual differences is the position of Grand Marshall, to be assumed this year by Jackie Harvey, winner of the 2015 Teacher of the Year Award.

Lunsford says he often wonders, with all of the moving pieces, how the entire event is pulled off.

“Once you experience it, you’re just going to think, ‘Whoa. How do they do this?’” he says. “The festival comes together because of the pride people take in the Centerville-Washington Township area.”

The celebration starts at 7 p.m. Friday, July 3, with a flag ceremony and concert at Stubbs Park. The following day, July 4, the Americana 5K kicks off at 7:30 a.m. sharp, and the first 1,000 participants receive free T-shirts. The race, featuring all ages and abilities, will be followed immediately by the annual parade along Franklin Street at 10 a.m. Simultaneously, the street fair thrives from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., extending north from Franklin Street to the Centerville-Washington Park District Activity Center. The streets leading up the children’s area are peppered with food, vendors and entertainers.

“Our arts and crafts vendors—everything has to be handmade,” Lunsford says. “Anything from metal structures to hand woven clothing, scarves, wood crafters that make canes, soaps people make themselves… We even have a little goat that one of the vendors brings. Everything is very unique.”

The Auto Show runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Main Street and features numerous award categories and the opportunity for participants to receive goodie bags and maybe even a trophy.

The day concludes at Centerville High School with an 8:30 p.m. patriotic concert by the Centerville Community Band and Centerville Choir—including pyrotechnics to replicate the cannon fire in Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”—and the Grand Finale Fireworks Show, a fireworks “extravaganza” synchronized to Soft Rock 92.9, at 10 p.m. For the second year in a row, premium track seating is available through the Centerville High School Parent Teacher Organization.

“What keeps people coming is the uniqueness of the day,” Lunsford says, “the pride that people take in the country. Several years ago, I had some relatives come in from Illinois. Military people…They swelled in pride when they stood on the side watching the parade go by, flags waving. That’s just what America is all about.”

The festival is special for visitors and residents alike—but those who plan it maintain a little extra swell of pride.

“My very first year [planning the event], when those military jets flew over to start the parade and the fireworks boomed to start everything, it just gave me chills,” Lunsford says. “I’m standing in the middle about to direct the parade, and two jets fly low. It was incredible. It took my breath away. If that doesn’t give you pride in the country we live in, nothing will.”

The Centerville-Washington Township Americana Festival is free to attend and will begin with a concert and flag ceremony at Stubbs Park on Spring Valley Road, July 3 at 7 p.m. The festival events will continue July 4 on Franklin and Main, beginning with the Americana 5K run at 7:30 a.m. The concert and Grand Fireworks Finale will take place at 8:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. respectively at Centerville High School. To register early for the Americana 5K, visit americanafestival.org or speedy-feet.com. Fees do apply for participating in the 5K or car show. For more information on event details and pre-festival events, visit americanafestival.org. To volunteer or become a sponsor, call 937.428.9700.

 

Can’t make the Americana Festival? 

Check out these fireworks displays throughout the summer for more family fun and patriotism in other parts of town.

Dayton Lights In Flight Fireworks

July 2, 10 p.m.

RiverScape MetroPark

111 E. Monument Ave.

Dayton, Ohio 45402

Vandalia Star Spangled Celebration

July 3, 10 p.m.

Vandalia Sports Complex

1101 Stonequarry Road

Vandalia, Ohio 45414

Moraine Fourth of July Fireworks

July 4, 10 p.m.

Wax Park

3800 Main St.

Moraine, Ohio 45439

Star Spangled
(Huber) Heights Fireworks Display

July 4, 10 p.m.

Cloud Park

4707 Brandt Pike

Huber Heights, Ohio 45424

Englewood Fireworks Celebration

July 4, 10 p.m.

Centennial Park

321 Union Blvd.

Englewood, Ohio 45322

Brookville Community Picnic

July 25, Dusk

Golden Gate Park

Upper Lewisburg Salem Rd.

Brookville, Ohio 45309

 

Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at CCHutten@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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CC Hutten
Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at ContactUs@DaytonCityPaper.com

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