Saddled with poor weather and low attendance, Lake Elkhorn event marks its 33rd and last year

`Unluckiest festival' closes

September 20, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,sun reporter

The Lake Elkhorn Festival has been troubled over the years by poor weather - so bad, in fact, that the event was canceled in 2003 and 2004.

So few were surprised that one of Columbia's longest-running annual events began last Saturday under threatening skies.

"It was typical and expected," said Ruth Bohse, Owen Brown village manager. "My husband said it was going to be good on Saturday and I said I didn't believe it."

Owen Brown officials had decided to make this year's festival - its 33rd - the last one. Low attendance, the lack of volunteers and the loss of revenue all contributed to the decision. So did the weather.

And as if to make that point perfectly clear, it started to rain Saturday.

"It had to rain on my parade and it always does," Bohse said. "We got through it anyway and nobody said they were going to pack up."

Dean Turner, a magician at the event for 15 years, said the soggy conditions were nothing unusual.

"Looking for the unluckiest festival? This is what you call it," he said. "My first time I was hired, a windstorm hit the festival. ... I took it personally for a while because I would see it bright and sunny and gorgeous and then it would start to rain."

Turner, dressed in a black-and-white pirate suit, made balloon-shaped swords and animals for children. Turner said he learned many of his magical skills while working at the festival and was sad to see it end.

"I've seen this thing go from a couple of tents to what it is now - it's grown and it's sad to see it over," he said.

When the festival started decades ago, it was called the Owen Brown Picnic. Since then, the event has changed names and what it offers. Once they had a parade and a boat race. Saturday's festival included live entertainment, games, a pet show, auction, arts and crafts vendors.

Later in the afternoon, clouds gave way to sunshine and vendors and spectators celebrated with applause.

Richard Griffith, 41, of Hickory Ridge, said it was his first time at the festival.

"We enjoyed it a lot and we ran around and played some games. ... It was good that we got some good weather toward the end," Griffith said.

Tim and Maria May of Owen Brown had attended previous Lake Elkhorn Festivals with their children.

"We've been to a few of these and they have been about the same," Tim May, 40, said. "The magician has been good. ... It's been nice and it's good to have it around."

While the Lake Elkhorn Festival has ended, Owen Brown officials plan to stage another event to be determined.

"The sun did come out, and hopefully that is a good omen for bigger and better things to come in the future of festivals," said Neil Dorsey, chairman of the Owen Brown Village Board.

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