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Elba tweeks tradition with move of Onion Festival to Firemen's rec hall

By Gretel Kauffman

This year Elba's 76th annual Onion Festival will be held outside the Firemen’s Recreation Hall on the edge of town rather than in its usual location in the village park.

Fire Department President Bill Hynes said the decision to move the festival stemmed from the aging demographics of members of the department.

“We don’t have as many firemen as we used to, and some of them are getting older,” Hynes said. “It just got to be too much to move everything from the rec hall down to the village park.”

Festival coordinator Barbie Starowitz says that though the location will be different, many of the same traditions will remain, such as the Ladies Auxiliary’s roast beef dinner and the ever-popular bingo game “Dart-O.” Both will be held inside the rec hall.

The crowning of the 2012 Onion Queen, which would normally take place in the park gazebo, will “tentatively” be held inside the hall as well, according to Hynes.

The relocation has received mixed reviews, according to Starowitz: “There’s good and there’s bad.”

One of the less-favorable reactions was voiced by Leon Watson, a retired longtime member of the fire department who believes that these changes are “driving people away.”

“I think they’re going to lose a bundle on this,” Watson said. “There’s no place to park, and it’s a hazard with two roads coming together right there. I’d like to see them move it back to the park."

Watson, who belonged to the fire department for “about 60 years,” has been attending Onion festivals since he was a small boy and the festival was held at the Four Corners in Elba. Shortly after the birth of “Field Day” in 1937, it was moved to the village park due to a lack of space at the Four Corners, and has been there ever since.

“We get a lot of graduates who come back just for the Onion Festival,” he said. “They like it at the park. There’s space and there’s shade.”

So has the Onion Festival found a new permanent home at the rec hall, or will it return to the park in 2013? Hynes says it’s too early to tell:

“There will be a vote of the department. We’ll just see what happens.”

Raymond Patnode_3

They are crazy to move it. Are there rides and beer tent still? Were are they putting them? It will not be the same that is for sure. I all ways looked forward to going to see class mates every year. How many people are going to beable to see the queen crowned?

Jul 19, 2012, 7:44pm Permalink
dennis wight

did it have anything to do with the Mayor puttin' the squeeze on the fire dept's beer tent for competing with his own business that weekend ?

Jul 19, 2012, 9:55pm Permalink
Jason Crater

You're going to criticize him for not hitting the space bar at the appropriate moment? You're making me want to proofread all of your previous comments.

Jul 20, 2012, 9:38am Permalink
Daniel Jones

People who criticize the spelling and grammar of others usually aren't able to come up with a decent counter-argument, so they just pick nits.

Jul 20, 2012, 11:59am Permalink
C. M. Barons

The Stumble Inn and Onion Fest have coexisted for 34 years. Suggesting Steve Goff exercised selfish influence in this decision is a reach. The innuendo should be accompanied by supporting evidence.

Jul 20, 2012, 12:29pm Permalink
Mandy Esten

This is going to be a hard change for everyone involved, including us firemen and women who have been working hard to make this work! Yes there will be a beer tent still (behind M & T bank) and the rides will be in the parking lot. The Onion Queen will be outside in the memorial area of the rec hall NOT inside the rec hall so there will be plenty of space for people to sit and watch it. This is not an easy move for us but we are running out of space at the park as we can't use the baseball fields anymore and the village planting trees in the front of the park that would be forcing us to move all the tents back. We will have plenty of space at the rec hall! Like i said it's a change for all of us and hopefully everyone will come help support our volunteer fire department.

Jul 20, 2012, 1:30pm Permalink

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