HOPE — Sunshine, gentle breezes and mild temperatures combined to attract a large crowd from near and far to the 54th annual Hope Heritage Days.
“I’m telling you, we are having people coming from all across the Midwest,” Main Street of Hope Executive Director Matt Lee said. “I don’t know where all of them are finding parking, but it’s a good thing.”
After learning that downtown Hope had just finished a multi-million dollar renovation, Brady Bunch actor and musician Barry Williams looked over the town square during a meet and greet Saturday afternoon on the north side of Jackson Street.
“I feel like I’ve just stepped back in time 100 years,” Williams said. “It’s beautiful.”
The 67-year-old Williams and his band, the Traveliers, were the headline musical act that evening.
Lee, who is also the lead performer for the Night Owl Country Band, had been preparing for the three-day festival for quite some time.
His group backed up country music performer Scott Haggard Friday night and Williams’ group Saturday. They also put on their own concert late Saturday afternoon.
“We’re used to learning four or five songs in two to three months,” Lee said. “This year, we had to learn three hours of music in just a couple of months. Now, Haggard was right down our line because he only plays country music. But learning to play Barry’s stuff? That was a lot of fun.”
John Rader of Columbus says he’s been coming to Hope’s annual harvest festival for nearly two dozen years. He said he finds it more relaxing that larger events, giving him a chance to get out and wind down.
“I like all the small shops,” Rader says. “But I also come back to support the community.”
Supporting the community was a topic brought up by a number of volunteers working the event. Several nonprofits lost their main – and in some cases, only sources of revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While some may still be struggling,Hauser Jr.-Sr. High FFA sponsor Aleesa Dickerson, whose organization sponsors a food booth during the festival, says her organization weathered the shut-downs better than expected.
“Our food booth was in the parking lot during sports tournaments when they didn’t have Heritage Days,” Dickerson said. “We were more affected by kids not being able to do things or go places. But over the past two years, our giving has been very good and we have been very blessed.”
While many showed up Friday to meet the son of country music legend Merle Haggard – and on Saturday to see Williams – Lee said a lot of people have been eager to meet Rupert Boneham, a reality TV show favorite and former wrestler. Boneham who comes from Montgomery County, was brought in to be a guest judge during the Sunday afternoon Hope Heritage Parade.