Hersey's River Town festival to debut with pancakes, music and thanks

NEW FESTIVAL: Hersey will welcome visitors next week during the first Hersey River Town Festival Aug. 10-12. (Herald Review file photo)
NEW FESTIVAL: Hersey will welcome visitors next week during the first Hersey River Town Festival Aug. 10-12. (Herald Review file photo)

HERSEY — In 2008 and 2009, there wasn’t much hope for the small town of Hersey.

The Hersey General Store burned down on Labor Day 2008, and the original Hersey Party Store closed its doors in the middle of summer 2009. Mama Mia's Restaurant that once served eaters in the town was a distant memory, and the Village's annual celebration, Hersey Heritage Days, was losing participation.

Now, four years later, the village has been transformed into a thriving community.

To celebrate the little town’s comeback, Hersey will host the River Town Festival Aug. 10 and 11. The event is a celebration of a lot of hard work from business owners such as Larry Trombley at the Roller Mills Store and Larry and Nancy Turner at River Junction restaurant.

"We want people in West Central Michigan, who might not otherwise visit, to see what we have to offer," said Village President John Calabrese. "Hersey is open for business and we're celebrating!"

The festival will be inaugurated with a community flea market, live music, the return of the traditional Hersey softball tournament, and a parade.

The new festival was named via Hersey's Name the Festival Contest which concluded at the end of May; the winning name was submitted by Leroy resident Elva C. Edstrom-Lamb.

The festival begins Friday, Aug. 10 with the River Junction Beer Garden being the festival's homebase for live music and cold refreshments. At 8 p.m., Jodi and South'rn Cross, a band from Midland, will serenade crowds with their hometown boogie woogie along with DJ Tolin.

Saturday's events begin early with Hersey's Mosaic Park Bazaar opening at 8 a.m. with setup beginning at 6:30 a.m.

Hersey's Mosaic Park Bazaar is a community flea market open to flea, craft and farmers market vendors. Local yard sellers and non-profits are also welcome. There is a $10 set-up fee in advance, and $15 fee the day of the market. All spots are first come, first served on day of event. The bazaar will remain open until 4PM. For more information contact Lori at herseyfleamarket@hotmail.com.

Also at 8 a.m. Saturday, Hersey's River Town Festival will host a co-ed softball tournament. Teams must have a minimum of four females and a 1 and 1 count with courtesy foul. Ten teams already have entered the tournament and advance registration deadline has passed. All games will be played at David's Field at the Hersey Ballpark.

A pancake-eating contest will take place at 9 a.m. on Main Street. Eaters must be at least 18 and must use a fork and knife. They will be given three minutes to eat the pancakes and cannot drink any liquids. The winner will receive $100 and be declared the 2012 Hersey Pancake Champion. Advance registration is required. For more information, or to enter the contest, contact Angie at 231-580-7388.

Guests not wanting to partake in the pancake eating contest, but wanting a good breakfast, can enjoy the Longest Breakfast Table in Hersey at 9 a.m. The breakfast table can be found on Main Street between Second Street and Third Street. Breakfast will cost $5 a plate and is hosted by River Junction Bar and Restaurant.

In addition to the Community Flea Market, Softball Tournament and pancake eating, there are a host of other events during the day. Hersey United Methodist Church will be hosting a chicken barbeque beginning at 11 a.m. The church will also welcome children of all ages during the River Town Festival Kids' Games immediately following the festival's parade.

The River Town Festival Parade will kick-off at noon, and will travel down Main Street. Line-up for the parade begins at 11:30 a.m. across from the Hersey Party Store. Name the Festival contest winner Elva Edstrom-Lamb will be the parade Grand Marshall.

Also immediately following the parade, a Dunk Tank will be hosted at the Hersey Township Fire Barn with proceeds to benefit the Hersey Congregational Church.

By the end of the parade, the River Junction Beer Tent will be open for business. Doors open at noon and entry is only $3 until 8 p.m. After a performance by D.J. Tolin at 6 p.m., Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys will perform.

Since 2009, Gunnar and Company have opened for Lady Antebellum, Eric Church, Ronnie Dunn and a number of other national country acts, in addition to becoming local and regional favorites. Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys will set their honky tonk circus down in Hersey beginning at 9 p.m. The cost for the event is $5.

To celebrate the small town’s history, graduates from the Hersey School are invited to a reunion Saturday at the Hersey Township Hall. Social hour will begin at 1 p.m. with a potluck dinner at 2 p.m.

Hersey's River Town Festival is planned and hosted by The Hersey Group, formerly Hersey Heritage Days. For more information, contact Ernie Clark at (231) 912-1991, or visit facebook.com/HerseyRiverTownFestival. Volunteers are needed for the festival.