Harvest Fest celebrates 30 years of community

Lynn Pollesch of Ripon shuttles fest attendees up and down South Street in 2017. Pollesch is the founder of the East Central Tractor Cruise, Inc.  Maic D’Agostino photo

by Ariana Hones

Thirty years ago, the farmers came in from the fields after a long summer of planting, tending and weeding and decided it was time to party.

Harvest Fest was born.

Taking place annually on the last weekend of September, Harvest Fest celebrates the farmlands and communities that make up Green Lake area.

This year’s festivities will take place Saturday, Sept. 29 and Sunday, Sept. 30, with a special  birthday celebration occurring Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and the parade at 4 p.m.

Any group is welcome to march in the parade and may contact the Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce for an application.

Beyond Saturday’s birthday celebration, each day will host a farmer’s market and craft fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as Havens Petting Farm, face painting, Sink the Bismark and a silent auction.

Those looking for a moment of relaxation can listen to music by Dan Braaksma, Mad Dog and Merrill, Rock River Band and Karen Wickham during the festival weekend.

They also will be able to partake in the Taste of Green Lake days, which will be sponsored by local service organizations Saturday and local restaurants Sunday. The event offers a sampling of local flavors and supports community organizations at the same time.

Also taking place during the weekend will be Harvest of Bargains at Thrasher Opera House. This rummage sale of vintage and antique treasures transforms the inside of the opera house and proceeds go toward future programming.

In addition, Harvest Fest will feature the Jack Taylor Memorial Car Show, which has grown to more than 500 entries.

Taking place Sunday, Sept. 30, participants pay $10 at the gate and have a chance to win “luck of the draw” cash prizes.

That won’t be the only chance to win money during Harvest Fest weekend.

The Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce also will host a festival raffle, with the top-three prizes being $1,000 chamber dollars, a grill package and $200 chamber dollars.

Other festival activities include a Friends of the Castecker Public Library book sale each day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., a street dance Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. at Goose Blind and an American Legion-sponsored pancake breakfast Sunday, from 7 to 11 a.m.

“Last year over 10,000 people attended the Harvest Fest,” Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Liane Walsh said.

Although her most notable memory is of the past two years’ weather extremes, with 2016 offering torrential downpours and 2017 bringing temperatures in the 90s, Walsh is excited for this year’s 30th anniversary.

“Harvest Fest is for everyone,” she said. “People can come and have a great time and not spend a dime if they don’t want to.”

The accessibility doesn’t stop there as the festival again will also offer a shuttle service from the county fairgrounds to downtown Green Lake, so the walk doesn’t deter attendees.

What started out originally as a festival to celebrate the end of summer farming in just one park in Green Lake, decades later has expanded to all city parks and celebrates something much more expansive: a commemoration of the summertime community.

All Harvest Fest needs now is a promise of cool, sunny skies.