Hey Greenfield, We Need a Theme!

I was in a discussion  about Greenfield’s future and one subject discussed was the Greene Countrie Towne Festival. My personal thought is that it never has a reason for being. What does it celebrate, what is its theme? Wilmington has it’s Banana Split Festival and Hillsboro its Festival of the Bells. Each is themed on a historical reality about its past.

The constant in Greenfield’s yearly gathering is the antique car show and at one time the festival was renamed Wheels of Progress festival in some attempt at a theme. But, other than the historical presence of the C.R. Patterson Company there is little historical connection to the automobile industry. In the past 40-years, however, a goodly portion of the village’s economy has been economically dependent on that industry. But, is it enough to structure a celebration around?

We have the McClain legacy and a sister-village in Georgia. Atco Village (now a part of Cartersville, GA) was founded by E.L. McClain to produce cloth for his factories here in Greenfield and elsewhere. We have a completely unique educational campus that was given birth by McClain’s successes.

A decade ago I drove to Beaux Bridge, Louisiana to attend the world’s largest and oldest crawfish festival. It was absolutely the best festival I’ve ever attended and here’s why. It had a definite theme, the celebration and honoring of the area’s Cajun culture and other things Gulf Coast. It was held in a fenced in area and the crowd paid a minimal entre fee making crowd control and security excellent. And since this was a Cajun celebration, everything from the food to the flea market was Cajun themed. There wasn’t any scraggly dude selling Sturgis, SD t-shirts or Italian pizza or Polish sausage sandwiches. If it wasn’t Cajun related it wasn’t going to be sold there.

The food vendors were all local organizations. Years ago difference clubs, etc., had signed up for certain foods and they owned the market on that item. The Elks had the Crawfish Etouffee booth, the Kiwanis Club the crawfish & potato boil, the Rotary Club was deep-frying alligator tail, the Junior League was making shrimp po’ boy sandwiches, and the Girl Scouts were peddling bread pudding & hard sauce.

No Cajun gathering is complete without a little adult libation so New Orelean’s Pat O’Brien had a mobile bar on site mixing up their famous creation, the Hurricane, as well as other traditional NOLA mixed drinks. A beer wagon was present but not vending Bud Light. Louisiana has it’s own breweries and the wagon was selling a variety of draft beers from the local Abita Brewery.

There were three music stages and for most of the day and evening what you heard coming from them was traditional Louisiana folk music performed in the French dialect of the Cajuns, Zydeco, Blues, NOLA style jazz, and maybe a little Southern rock.

I realize that few regions of the nation have a culture so defined and rooted as does Louisiana’s bayous and swamps but someplace in what I experienced is what the minds of this community should consider considering.

Here’s a few more thoughts. In Greenfield’s past is a pretty strong influx of immigration from Ireland and Germany. While they are not identical cultures they do share common elements, they both like beer and have a fondness for potatoes. Before the advent of the factory farm this area was famous for the production of hogs and hogs turn into sausage and the Germans like sausage and sausage goes well with beer. Last year’s very successful and inaugural  Oktoberfest is an event that could be tied into these historical connections.

We also have a rather unique historical district. Just consider the collection of historical properties, operated by the Greenfield Historical Society, that exist along McArthur Way. Possibly that could become a new and more controllable location for a festival or celebration.

Finally, I don’t have any definitive ideas about all this. I, and others, are merely trying to brain storm a little about things that could attract attention to the village for something other than the occasional meth lab bust. Festivals and other community events can bring outside dollars, get people involved, reestablish old friendships, foster a better sense of community and common purpose, and other immeasurable positive results.

Once again, I am asking all of you, whether you still live in Greenfield or not, to become a part of the conversation. Put your heads together and give it some thought. Open up and, using this blog or other means to share your ideas and thoughts. You never know what seed of a pearl may lie inside your thoughts.

8 thoughts on “Hey Greenfield, We Need a Theme!”

  1. Just a little comment about some things that I didn’t “hear” anyone else mention, mainly some ideas to possibly use in some themes:

    * General Douglas MacArthur,
    * Waddell Furniture Company,
    * Life Net, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_net,
    * I haven’t been able to find it, yet, but I remember a plague somewhere in the high school that honored a McClain graduate of many years ago who’d been a key inventor in some process that allowed aluminum to be usable, so we could have an Aluminum Festival.

  2. The GCTF or Wheels of Progress is the Rotary’s gig and there’s to decide about. While I appreciate what they do and how they spend the proceeds I don’t know if that kind of event best serves the community as a whole. From an outsider what I see is them making their money from the rental of spaces, some sort of take on the carnival concessions, and the income from their annual auction. I know local clubs, churches, and organizations pay their space rent and then hopefully make something in return or get their message out, etc.

    What I don’t like is seeing all the outside food vendors coming in, paying their rent, hiring no locals, taking our Polish sausage dollar and leaving town with most of it in their pocket. I would rather see the McClain FFA students selling Polish Sausage and know that after their rent was paid there would be an increased chance that some of the profits would be spent back into the area’s economy.

    Whatever the answer to a successful event is, in my mind, it requires something unique. I argued this with a local organization many years ago. If you’re going to have a fund raiser involving food, then make it special. Don’t just go to Save A Lot and buy a pack of $1 a pound hot dogs and boil them in water. Find the best damned hot dog the old German butchers of Cincinnati can still make, some artisan rolls, grainy mustard, horseradish, kraut, etc. and give the public something they’re not going to get if they stay glued to their sofas at home watching the Cartoon Channel. That’s what was attempted at the Oktoberfest and, while I think it needs a little tweaking, it worked. Seeing Katy Farber frying up crispy slices of German goetta on an ancient “Big Daddy” skillet made by Greenfield Products just made it the best I’ve ever eaten! If word got out at how damned good that goetta was foodies would come from far and wide! (assuming gasoline wasn’t $20 a gallon!) 🙂

    Appreciate the input….now lets hear from others!

  3. The Oktoberfest celebrated the German heritage, why not an Irish fest to celebrate the Irish heritage. Could it be held in March around St Patrick’s Day? This March we could have had one, since old man winter never showed up. : )

    Like Colin said, no one has a school like McClain. Was E.L. McClain Irish?

    1. I think an Irish festival around St. Paddy’s Day would be wonderful. Only problem I see is finding an inside place to hold it because of all the extremes of weather at that time of year. Also, someplace that would be willing to permit the sale of Irish Red Ales, Guinnesss Stout, and green beers for those who insist! Maybe an empty warehouse or empty store front could be borrowed for a day or two.

      How about two or three empty store fronts with an acoustic band in each along with different stews & brews. Make each a little different and then sell the whole thing as a “pub crawl.” Sell wrist bands and people could just drift back and forth. In Clarksdale, MS they do something like that each spring with a Juke Joint Festival. I drove through a town in Indiana couple of years ago and they were having a festival they called Ques, Brews & Stews!

  4. Larry, I served as President of the Grf. Merchants Assoc. for several years. We had approached Rotary ( the sponsor of Wheels of Progress Festival) about changing the name to something centered around food such the Rasberry Festival (we had A Rasb. Farm in the area) or possible Sun Flower Festival. We were told the wheel is the Rotary Symbol and they were not interested in growing the festival’s size. Sandy Parker

  5. Greenfield has always been known for the school. No one has a school like ours. A festival honoring E.L. McClain and the school would be very unique. Perhaps some creative minds could even come up with some “eats” to go along with the school theme. Sandwiches named after teachers or past administrators or coaches for examples. Just a thought…..

    1. The thought of creating a sandwich themed on teacher personalities I’ve known is intriguing.

      One might be a Tony Packo sausage served on a full-bodied crusty roll that’s been dipped in a jus made from a blend of Canadian Mist and STOUT! 🙂

      Someone will know who the teacher is. 🙂

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