Sunday, September 21, 2003

More to Madeira fest than fun, games

Heritage, community a big part of celebration

By Liz Oakes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MADEIRA - You could tell a block away, from the drumbeats mingled with the occasional strains of acalliope, that this was no ordinary party in the park.

Sure, there were oversized bratwursts, giant funnel cakes piled high with powdered sugar, and children playing with colorful balloons.

But visitors to Madeira's Festival in the Park on Saturday - held to celebrate Ohio's bicentennial and to dedicate the city's new shelter house in Sellman Park - also got to speak with "Abe Lincoln," meet American Indian and colonial military re-enactors and enter a historical costume contest.

"It's a Happy Birthday party for Ohio, and also to celebrate Madeira's part in Ohio history," said Vice Mayor Sherry Mattes, who was wearing a pioneer dress and bonnet at the park.

"It's an old-fashioned celebration, and we're kind of an old-fashioned kind of town," she said.

Mattes chaired the event, which the city put together for less than $10,000. She said she expected up to 8,000 people to attend.

Jake Walsh, 7, of Madeira, at the festival with his mom, Jane Walsh, and his sister Delaney, 5, was brave enough to ask the 16th U.S. president (Stan Wernz of Wyoming in real life), "What is it like to be a president?"

"It's a huge responsibility," Wernz, 68, said gravely, then told him a story about Lincoln's son, Tad, and life in the White House.

Wernz gave the boy a penny.

"He's nice," Jake said.

Near the city council booth, Anthony Basile, 80, and daughter Linda Burroughs, 43, both Madeira residents, looked over the entertainment schedule.

"I think it's great," Basile said of the festival, adding that he hoped it would become an annual event. "People get to know their neighbors and see what's going on in the community."

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