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Monday, May 2, 2016

Heavy rains can't drench enthusiasm at Apple Festival

Saturday, October 6, 2012

If the frost wasn't quite on the pumpkin yet, a drenching rain was definitely on the apple.

Persistent rainfall poured over Bloomfield Friday evening, swamping the streets with puddles and bringing on a wintry chill which dampened clothes and skin, sending revelers inside.

Bad weather, however, couldn't drench their spirits.

"For me, the Apple Festival's like our little version of Homecoming, since we don't have our own football team," observed Russ Hash, the owner of Aggie's Fun House.

For years, he's watched old friends and expatriates from town return home, many stopping for a drink in the local nightspot.

"It's the weekend you see all your friends come back home," he explained. "And it always reminds me of the first weekend of fall. It seems like it's always this weekend when it starts to get colder."

Not typically as cold and wet as this, however, many festivalgoers agreed.

"It's raining and this weather sucks," said Stacey Deaton, who'd come ready to buy a taco in a bag.

She arrived too late, at least for Friday's sales.

By 4:30 p.m., most of the tents in the Bloomfield Park were tarped and tied down under the relentless rain. Deputy sheriffs were directing traffic as usual, but streets which were usually packed held only scattered handfuls of drenched festivalgoers.

"Due to the inclement weather, I was asked not to drive the shuttles," noted Brad Heaton, seeking shelter from the downpour in a dart game with friends.

"Bob Uland, who's running the whole thing, called me about a quarter to six and said not to worry about driving it, because they would maybe make one shuttle run."

Hopes are high the rain will abate today, though the chilly temps are expected to remain.

Many attending Bloomfield's Apple Festival took their celebrations indoors Friday evening, bringing more business downtown than is usual and pleasing business owners.

"I love the Apple Festival," said Mark Turner, owner of the Pepperoni Grill. "It's our community festival, and it's a homecoming for so many...it's unfortunate for the vendors in the park that it's dampened their profits, but for me, as a restaurant owner of the square, it's actually brought a little more business in."

Today, Turner's hosting two class reunions in his eatery and featuring live music from Jasonville singer-songwriter Erin Wilson, along with "Chicago Dave" Brown and J.W. Hubble.

Once, the festival was there on the square, centered around the courthouse. Some Bloomfield residents -- both past and present -- still argue for its return.

Watching her teenage daughter Lexi Weiser chatting with friends under the canopy of the Pepperoni Grill's patio, Kristi Riker Weiser, a 1988 Bloomfield graduate, remembered her own high school years.

"I still say it's not as fun as it was when it was on the courthouse square," she remembered wistfully. "You'd walk around the square about 20 times, stop, sit down on the steps and visit a while, and wait all night for the dance."

Others see the benefit -- even if they view it with mixed emotions -- of relocating to the park.

"It's definitely different from what it was when we were in school," said Fred Hoffman, a 1987 Bloomfield graduate. "It seems bigger, with more booths."

Borrowing Hoffman's coat, Kristi Weiser shivered against the chilly night air.

"Back then, that's when I didn't care if it was cold outside," she mused. "Apparently, I thought I was invincible."

Riker and Hoffman attended early, managing to eat lunch at the festival -- taco in a bag, a favorite of many attendees -- before the chilly rains drove them back inside.

Seated nearby, a small cadre of teenagers -- perhaps those who'll remember the festival most intently during their own high school days -- laughed and chatted.

Stuart Cobb, 19 and a 2012 graduate of Bloomfield High School is just old enough to remember the last festivals held on the town square.

"I can remember it being there," he said, recollecting 3-on-3 basketball games and "having a lot of fun."

On Friday, reclining in a patio chair outside the Pepperoni Grill, Cobb wore the painted face of a skeleton, one he'd donned in greasepaint at one of the fest's perennial favorites, the BHS Art Club's face painting booth.

That festival mainstay, overseen by Bloomfield art teacher Deb Johnson, has been around so long many parents of the teens now staffing the booth had their faces painted there decades before. Some still do, generations donning a sort of ceremonial war paint for the town's annual holiday weekend.

Cobb, despite graduating, came back to work one more festival to support the Art Club.

"It's the best thing, because you can get really creative," he said. "There were lots of different animals we painted. Two girls had a tiger painted on their face, and there was also a snake. A lot of people got full face paint, though some did half face paints, with a butterfly design."

Cobb lamented how the drenching rain smeared one of his temporary masterpieces, a rendition of a mask from the ballet "Swan Lake" he drew on the face of BHS sophomore Lindsey Johnston, 16.

"It was really cool, just around the eyes, like a mask" she explained, while Cobb chimed in "I painted that face."

Johnston hated to see it washed away, but the rain damage was perhaps inevitable. Cobb's own skeletal mask showed similar runs from the rain.

"It was pretty heavy, as far as the rain," Johnston said.

Cobb, however, was more accepting.

"For the last couple of years, it's been the same kind of weather, so I'm getting used to it," Cobb observed sanguinely. "I was just kind of looking forward to hanging out with my friends and having some fun, but for that, there's always Saturday."

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