Fleetwood’s first Homecoming Community Festival merged businesses, community and school with Homecoming spirit this past weekend, highlighted as the sun would highlight autumn’s canopy of oranges, golds, and reds.
“Wow. We were blown-away by the community attendance to the Homecoming festival after the parade. This was our first ever Homecoming event and we had no idea how many people would attend. There is no question that the community wanted something like this,” said Chris Young co-chair with Janice DeLay for the Fleetwood Homecoming Community Festival, members of Fleetwood Borough Council.
Lines for the train-ride, hay ride, and food stand stretched into the crowds around the games and Moon Bounce (courtesy of Above the Clouds, LLC). Behind the concession stand, kids danced off to music provided by a DJ. The evening finale came with the crackling of a huge bonfire and cheerleaders from The Fleetwood Area Youth Football and Cheerleading Association led a community pep rally.
Suzanne Touch, borough council president, estimated an easy 1,200 attendees Friday night. Lee Turner, Fleetwood Recreation Board, helped in the concession stand and said they needed to run four times to the store for more food. Where they had only expected to serve about an hour, they actually served at least three hours.
Good food, good times, and good friends didn’t end Friday evening; it carried through Saturday and into Sunday with a chili and soup cook-off and line-dancing. Predictions of a chilly wet Sunday didn’t stop plans from heating up; the event was moved from the park to the Community Center.
Saturday’s activities were able to go on as planned without any weather worries. According to Fleetwood Area Main Street Association Secretary Karah L. Reed, legal secretary for O’Keefe and Sher, well over 40 businesses within the 19522 zip code had participated in some way, shape or form whether it was in the form of a donation for the Chinese auction, manning a stand to promote their business and/or just being open for people to visit.
Saturday began with an open house in the Community Center featuring crafters, vendors, and artwork on display.
Candi Barwinski, Fleetwood, volunteered to sit at her mother’s stand, Donna Jones Seasonal Creations. Barwinski teaches second grade at the Willow Creek Elementary School.
“I’m loving it. I think that’s what this community needs because we do have a great neighborhood, a great community, but no one has really stepped out and started something like this,” said Barwinski. “I think it’s great for the parents and kids to do things together.”
Some the crafters who believe in community involvement include Lainie Renne, and Virginia Zohner, both Fleetwood. Renne, who crafted wreaths, swags, and wall hangings, got involved with the borough because she is working toward getting a local playground revitalized. Zohner, who is involved with Santa’s Fast Lane at Willow Creek Elementary, said it’s a great way to get the community more involved with Homecoming weekend.
One of the treats attendees seemed to enjoy were the walking tacos. A walking taco is a bag of Doritos or Fritos with hamburger, lettuce and cheese added. Then you scrunch everything together and just eat with a fork from the bag as you go on your way out to visit with participating businesses along the street, including Smith Law Group, Fleetwood.
“What I like about Fleetwood,” said Melissa Goad, office administrator for Smith Law Group, “I live here, it’s a small community, it’s a hometown community, it’s a safe community, and that’s what I like about it.”
Attorney James M. Smith, principle member of the Smith Law Group, believes in giving back to the community.
“We sponsor Little League teams here in Fleetwood. We support the YMCA in Fleetwood and other non-profits that are really community focused,” said Smith. “That’s something I think that I owe the community. I’m a member of the community, I was involved with the YMCA, my kids were involved, I would coach Little League, and we sponsored the Youth Soccer Program. That’s what this demonstrates; I own a business, but I’m a dad, a husband, I’m a neighbor and it’s good for each of us to know each other that way.”
Also participating was CONCERN, a non-profit child welfare agency which has been providing services for children, youth and families in the community since 1978.
“Our goal here is to reach out to the community because we’re a part of the community and sometimes being part of the community, they don’t know us and we want to get to know them better,” said Eileen Walters, business manager.
Touch wanted to acknowledge the Fleetwood Recreational Board, Fleetwood Borough Council, Fleetwood Fire Company, the Friends of Fleetwood Playground, Fleetwood Area Main Street Association (FAMSA) as well as all of those groups that participated in the parade and the school district.
“It was just a big huge community effort to make this weekend,” said Touch.
According to Young, the inspiration for the Homecoming Community Festival was to have a fall festival in the park and to highlight FASD’s Homecoming. As the news spread, more groups wanted to participate in the Friday event, including the YMCA, Locust Street Playground Group, and Fleetwood Community Watch. When FAMSA heard the idea, they loved it, and decided to move their fall event to the Saturday of the same weekend to join in on the festival theme. Touch had the idea to have an open house in the Community Center that Saturday morning, and to top it off Sunday with a chili cook-off and line dancing event. There was supposed to be a dedication of the Gary Ebeling Walking Trail in the park on Sunday, but because of weather, it was postponed until next year.
Other free events sponsored by the Fleetwood Recreational Board include Concerts in the Park, Blues Fest, Hometown Holiday for Homecoming and middle school dances. They also have safety programs and movies in the park and in the Community Center. To learn more about events and programs or how to get involved, go to http://www.fleetwoodboro.com/index.html.