This is the time of year just about everyone looks forward to around greater Chagrin Falls including longtime area resident Jeff Hoefler. The flowers are blooming, summer is beginning, and current and former residents are excited aboutthe annual Blossom Time Festival.
“I remember as a kid being so excited when it was getting close and closer, you knew it was going to be a good time,” said Mr. Hoefler, a member of the Chagrin Valley Jaycees since 1985.
Super Heroes is the theme of the 59th edition of the Jaycees sponsored Blossom Time fest which starts at 5:30 tonight (Thursday) with an opening ceremony and the crowning of the queen and her court in Riverside Park.
Mr. Hoefler, a Kenston High School grad, admits that setting up for the carnival is one of his favorite parts. “The trucks start pulling in, the tents are going up. It’s just fun to watch the whole thing come together.”
Brenan Rucker, director of operations and treasurer for the Jaycees, has lots of Blossom Time memories. “One funny one I have is when my Dad and I rode the Zipper, the first ride I ever went on when I was big enough, and he lost everything he had in his pockets, including his wallet.”
Mr. Rucker said a number of changes have been made over the last 60 years including the location of the Ferris wheel, addition of kiddy rides and elimination of the skating rink.
Mr. Hoefler noted that adding live entertainment to the offerings was a big change from years past. “It’s just been a really good family style event and we’ve been able to keep that aspect of it.”
Mr. Rucker said importance of the event heightens each year. “It’s a tradition that will continue for generations.”
That tradition began eight decades ago when residents celebrated spring and summer festival on and off between 1933 and today. The beginning of Blossom Time is a long, blooming story, according to various newspaper articles found in the archives of the Chagrin Falls Historical Society.
The celebration was inspired by the festivities of the Chagrin Falls 1933 Centennial. For two days in August residents celebrated with a parade of carriages and costumes and prizes going to the oldest resident, the oldest married couple and the man with the largest feet. Festivities also included a soap box derby and contests such as needle threading, a chicken chase and a greased calf chase.
Two years later in mid-May, The Chagrin Valley Association put on Home Week where they planted crabapple trees on Grove Hill and Riverside Park for beautiful blossom trees.
After another year, a carnival was added to the festivities.
In 1937, the festival was billed as, “Chagrin Valley Week, when it’s blossom time in the valley,” according the Chagrin Falls Historical Society’s book on village history.
One year after that, the first fest queen was crowned. The name of the festival was shortened to Blossom Time.
From 1933 to 1938, all of the festivals were held at the fairgrounds, where the recreation center and Chagrin Falls High School sit today. When the festival was held on the fairgrounds, the parade started on Oak Street, turned onto Franklin Street, and then East Washington. The parade we see today is the reverse starting at the high school and ending at Triangle Park.
In 1940 and 1941, The Chagrin Valley Association sponsored a July summertime festival while the Rotary Club organized the parade.
With the emergence of World War II, Chagrin fell onto hard times eliminating the celebration for six years.
The Jaycees of Chagrin were founded in 1954 and two years laterthe organization leaders announced that they would put on a festival during Memorial Day weekend. Rides were added to the event for more family fun.
Riverside Park, where the carnival is held today, was first used as the venue in 1962. The Chagrin Village Council allowed use of the park if it was cleanedup after the event. That year, the Jaycees spent $700 on the park and permanent electric wiring used for both Blossom and Christmas displays in the winter.
In 1977 the Blossom Time 5 Mile Run and Walk and the bike race were added to the event.
Heinen’s stepped onto the scene in 1989 when it first sponsored the Blossom Time Balloon Festival, which continues today.
It was a reflection from the past since hot air balloon displays were done in the area about 100 years earlier. In the 1880s, Professor Oscar Hunt and his wife Elizabeth performed trapeze and parachuting stunts and Lizzie Hunt was one of the first women to parachute from an ascending balloon, according historical accounts.
Mr. Rucker said the fest continues to be important to the community. “Blossom Time is the major catalyst for the Jaycees to raise money that is donated every year to the other local organizations and charities,” he said. “Without it we could not do what we do as an organization.”