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PEOPLE wondered what the effect of the first-time Mill Race Marathon would have on Hope Heritage Days, an established small-town festival held during the past 45 years.
County tourism officials marketed the events as complementary to each other, and early indications are that proved to be the case.
The inaugural Mill Race Marathon was a resounding success, drawing an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 spectators and more than 4,800 participants to
Heritage of Hope Inc., which puts on Hope Heritage Days, in the past has claimed to draw 30,000 of its own visitors during the three-day event, calling itself Bartholomew County’s largest and oldest festival.
Event officials also expressed pleasure with this year’s turnout, despite a soggy Sunday that kept some people home on its final day.
One nonprofit vendor reported that his group sold more in one day this year (Saturday) than all three days the previous year.
In some respects, these are separate undertakings with appeals that do not intersect or compete with one another.
Through its 46-year history, Hope Heritage Days has maintained a theme based on the qualities of the small Bartholomew County town that hosts it. Many of those who wandered through the booths on the town square and gathered Sunday for the annual parade were repeat customers, drawn back to a hometown atmosphere.
Organizers have been faithful to the tradition of the event, as symbolized by the reaction of the crowd to one parade float in particular that had two occupants, 90-year-old World War II veteran and Hope resident Harold Gilliland and his wife, Lucy. The float, which featured a patriotic theme, was built by their children and served as their way of honoring the sacrifices of their father in a war fought seven decades ago. The response of the crowd (a standing ovation when it passed by each seating area) spoke volumes about respect for service to country and Hope Heritage Days itself.
It is understandable that some vendors who depend on these festival-style events would voice concerns about overlaps in scheduling and their inability to “be in two places at once,” (a comment by one of those at Hope Heritage Days). However such conflicts are inevitable at this time of year. Hope Heritage Days and the Mill Race Marathon are but two of many major autumn events in south-central Indiana, and spacing them out in an orderly fashion is, well, nigh impossible.
The good news for the events themselves are that people have an appetite for them, as evidenced by the turnouts over the past weekend.
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