There are many who will always prefer that the Festival of the Bells be held in downtown Hillsboro, but I thought it worked at Southern State Community College.
Rick Williams, the FOB committee president, told The Times-Gazette’s Jeff Gilliland, “I thought it went very well. Like anything you do at a new location, you’re going to have some bugs here and there. We know a few things we want to change for next year, but overall I thought it went extremely good.”
Kevin Boys, president of SSCC, said, “I don’t know that I could have expected any better turnout or logistics. As far as the college is concerned, it was fantastic. Great music, great food and good weather. Does it get any better than that?”
According to the Highland County Press, Kevin wisely took advantage of Saturday’s crowd to plug Southern State, telling attendees, “Don’t take your state community college for granted. If you have a youngster that lives in your home, send them this direction. If you’ve got a high schooler that’s thinking about where to go to college, have them come in the front door and check us out. Adults – you’re not off the hook. It’s never too late to go to college.” Amen!
Lora and I visited the festival on its final day, Saturday, and I liked how rides, tents and vendors were organized around the big college parking lot, along with the stage. Hillsboro police officers did a good job making sure festivalgoers who parked at Hobart crossed the street safely, and the new sidewalks came in handy for pedestrians who walked from other spots.
The only awkwardness I noticed involved people who parked at Shaffer Park and were crossing U.S. 62 without any police to stop traffic. Motorists had to be careful as people darted across the road. If the event is held at the college next year, some officers probably need to be stationed at Shaffer to make sure everyone’s safe.
Police officers I spoke with at the festival felt it was much easier to monitor the crowd at the college, compared to downtown where there are alleys and other places to hide and cause mischief.
Personally, I liked the change in venue. I did not mind at all not having downtown Hillsboro blocked to traffic for three days.
The festival is likely to return to SSCC next year, but after that, who knows? Mayor Drew Hastings has never been a fan of the event being held downtown, and it’s no secret that he and Rick have often clashed over it. Justin Harsha is vice president of the festival committee, and when he becomes mayor in 2020 (should we pretend there’s any other possibility?) it will be interesting to see if the festival ends up back downtown. But if it’s held at the college again next year, and people become more accustomed to it there, everyone might agree it’s best to keep it there.
Staging a big event like the festival is a monumental undertaking, wherever it’s held. Congratulations to Rick, Justin and the festival committee, Kevin Boys, the Hillsboro Police Department, Paint Creek fire and EMS personnel, and everyone else who had a hand in its success — not to mention the weather, which was cooperative this year.