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HOPE — For the past 46 years, the spotlight has been reserved for the town of Hope during the last weekend of September, with its annual, three-day Heritage Days Festival.
This year it had company with the Mill Race Marathon in Columbus, which attracted 12,000 to 15,000 spectators Saturday and about 4,800 participants for full and half marathons and a 5K race.
But according to Heritage Days organizers, and crowd sizes, there was enough room for both events.
Spirits remained high Sunday for the parade and other events, despite rain.
“Maybe not the 40,000 we’ve seen in the past (for the weekend), but there were a lot of people here,” said Glenn Keller, one of the two parade announcers Sunday.
Some people who attended Hope’s event Sunday said
that the Mill Race Marathon appeals to one audience, while Hope Heritage Days appeals to another because
it had a lot of traditional events.
“The same type of people like these kind of events. And they keep coming back every year,” Keller said.
Edinburgh resident Stan Brown, who has attended the Hope festival every year for several decades, said he’s not a “runner lover.”
“I didn’t watch the marathon. I can appreciate them, but I’m not a fan,” he said.
Sunday’s parade was among the traditional fare, with the usual candy tosses, antique cars, fire engines, floats and political groups showing their support for their favorite candidates.
But the entry that drew the greatest response from the crowd was 90-year-old Harold Gilliland, who sat with his wife, Lucy, upon a patriotic float built by the couples’ four children.
Gilliland, who served in World War II in southeast Asia with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, received a standing ovation from many of the spectators.
“This is my day,” said Gilliland, who sat protected by an umbrella in front of a large portrait of himself in uniform from his military days. “It’s so wonderful. I’ve never dreamed of anything like this.”
As his float neared the end of the parade, Gilliland took a moment to reflect on both his parade experience and longevity.
“I’m so lucky to still be going,” Gilliland said. “Hope I can go another year.”
Some opposing viewpoints, however, emerged about whether having Hope Heritage Days and the Mill Race Marathon on the same weekend was good.
“I think maybe they should space the two events a week apart,” said Betty Thurman, the owner of the Olde Time Flea Market in Brown County, who also sells items during the Heritage Days festival. “It’s hard to be in two places at once.”
Don Pope of Clifford, who worked Sunday in the Chapel of the Good Shepherd booth with his wife, Carol, understands Thurman’s feelings.
“We have the Ethnic Expo coming up next (Oct. 11 and 12). You have to space all these events out somehow,” Pope said.
But Hope resident Jim Stinson, who has worked at the Community Church of Hope booth annually for the past seven years, said Hope Heritage Days and the Mill Race Marathon help one another.
“We made $300 more on Saturday than they did all three days last year,” Stinson said. “We ought to do this every year.”
Hope’s festival also attracted people who wanted to hear some live musical acts, said Randy Sims, president and acting-CEO of Heritage of Hope, the organization that puts on the festival.
One of the Saturday night attractions was a performance by former John Mellencamp guitarist Larry Crane. But the biggest draw of the entire three-day festival was the Saturday night concert by the Nashville, Tenn.-based act One Night Rodeo, Sims said. The country-music duet had the crowd so worked up that patrons wouldn’t allow the group to leave the stage, causing a 20-minute delay in the start of the Saturday night fireworks, Sims said.
“It’s been an awesome weekend,” Sims added, with a smile.
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