River Town Festival connects Hersey community, looks to spur growth

FUN AT THE FESTIVAL: There was something for everone at the River Town Festival including a flea market, a parade, live music, a pancake eating contest, softball tournament, cookouts and lots, lots more. The party attracted thousands to the Hersey community and planners are already looking forward to next year.
FUN AT THE FESTIVAL: There was something for everone at the River Town Festival including a flea market, a parade, live music, a pancake eating contest, softball tournament, cookouts and lots, lots more. The party attracted thousands to the Hersey community and planners are already looking forward to next year.

By Kyle Leppek

Pioneer Staff Writer

HERSEY — Although some residents of the Village of Hersey might have thought its situation looked gloomy a few years ago, the activities held this weekend showed that thought is disappearing.

Not long ago, the village suffered several blows to its spirit. In 2008, the Hersey General Store burned down, the original Hersey Party Store closed in 2009, a popular restaurant also closed and participation in the annual Hersey Heritage Days celebration was waning. But now, with the encouragement of new businesses, residents feel the village is in an upswing.

Feeling more optimistic about the outlook of the village, organizers hosted the inaugural River Town Festival on Friday and Saturday.

“I think (the festival) is a good boost (for Hersey),” said Gloria Thompson, a Hersey resident for more than 40 years. “It gets people together to have fun.”

Thompson referenced the re-emergence of businesses after others had ceased as a reason to celebrate and hopes visitors will visit the village.

The festival included a flea market, children’s games, a parade, live music, a pancake eating contest, softball tournament and cookouts.

Before the festival began, organizers held a Name the Festival Contest which concluded at the end of May. LeRoy resident Elva C. Edstrom-Lamb’s “River Town Festival” was chosen, and she served as the parade’s Grand Marshall.

After the parade on Saturday, families explored the different village activities and socialized.

“I think (the festival and past festivals) have always been important to Hersey as a sense of identity,” said Ed Raby, Hersey Congregational Church pastor. “It gives us a chance to celebrate who we are and what we are.”

The festival was hosted by The Hersey Group. Member Ernie Clark said he was very pleased with the festival and looks forward to offering it again next year.

“(The festival) is important for the community, for Hersey itself, because it is a community that is on the rebound,” Clark said. “The festival is just a really great way for us to rebound and show the rest of West-Central Michigan what Hersey has to offer.”

Visit the photo gallery to see more photos from the River Town Festival.