GRAFTON - Come rain or shine, Grafton`s annual Firemen`s Festival is Memorial Day weekend.
For the 73rd year, the Grafton Village Fire Department has spent numerous hours planning, preparing and working hard to make this year`s festival bigger and better than ever.
The festival kicks off Thursday and runs through May 25 at Willow Park.
Festival Chairman and Grafton Village EMT Lora Kilgore said that without the support of Grafton residents and businesses, the festival could not continue.
"It`s the people in the community, as well as local businesses, that keep our festival going. It`s also the members of the Fire Department who volunteer so much of their time during those five days," Kilgore said. "Also, we receive great support from our police department, and we rely on sponsors and donations."
This year, however, due to the economic slump, the Grafton Firemen`s Association was unable to secure a fireworks or a large entertainment sponsor this year, Kilgore said.
But with so many other things going on, the event is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
The amusement park rides will once again be provided by Brown`s Amusements.
Patches and Pumper, the remote control fire truck that was a huge hit for the younger crowd last year, will make a return appearance this year courtesy of the Wellington Fire Department.
Grafton Idol will be May 22; a demonstration will be provided by Bowen`s Karate, and there will be a Texas Hold`Em tournament and bingo, a 5K walk/run and the classic car and motorcycle cruise-in.
Back by popular demand will be the annual firemen`s water fight on May 23.
This year, a corn hole tournament has been added. There will also be a demonstration from Ten Point O gymnastics on May 23, as well.
And, if you are heading to Grafton just for the food, this year`s selection is fabulous, Kilgore said.
"There will be a larger selection of food and nonfood vendors. You asked, and we listened," Kilgore said of past comments provided by visitors.
The Grafton Firemen`s Festival has been an annual event since 1936. It raises funds to help support the operations and equipment of the Grafton Village Fire Department.
"I grew up in Grafton ,and the Firemen`s Festival was always the place to go in Grafton, and it meant that school was almost over, too," Kilgore said. "It is very much like a homecoming for residents. There are still people who come every year that remember some of the very first festivals.
"From the beginning, the midway has grown, and this event has become a highly anticipated event in Lorain County."
- This year, the Grafton Idol karaoke contest will return during the festival. The contest will be 7 p.m. May 22. Registrations are being accepted at Grafton Village Hall and the Grafton Midview Public Library. There will be three divisions. The first group will be for those 7 to 12 years of age, the next division is for those 13 to 17 and the last division is for 18 and older. To register, leave your name, age and song choice. Song choices are from an approved list. The event is sponsored by Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church.
- The second annual First Place 5K run/walk is 9 a.m. May 23, with registration at 7:45 a.m. in Grafton. The event will support the Grafton firefighters. An estimated 200 runners and walkers are expected to attend. The event will also include a 100-yard dash kids` race, free T-shirts, cash prizes and refreshments. More information is available at First Place Bank (440) 926-2191. Register online at www.ClevelandPlaysRacing.com.
For a complete list of the 73rd annual Grafton Firemen`s Festival, visit www. graftonfiremensfestival.com.