Harmar Days Festival Returned with Great Success

Normally a quiet neighborhood, Harmar Village was bustling with activity the last weekend in July as hundreds gathered in the streets to celebrate Harmar Days. After a year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the festival returned triumphantly with an expanded three-day schedule full of family fun, coordinated by the Historic Harmar Bridge Company to support the preservation and restoration of the Historic Harmar Bridge.

Larry Sloter, owner of the Busy Bee Restaurant, LLC and Chair of the Historic Harmar Bridge Company said this year’s festival exceeded all of his expectations.

Larry Sloter, Historic Harmar Bridge Co. Chair, laughs (Michelle Waters)

“This year’s Harmar Days Festival was one of our largest to date. We knew this year would be larger, but with perfect weather, it was better than we could anticipate,” said Sloter. “We had more food trucks than previous years as well as more kids’ activities and craft vendors. Our stage was full of entertainment all weekend and by all accounts, everyone felt it was successful.”

Festivities kicked off Friday evening with an opening ceremony, live entertainment on the main stage, the beer garden, food trucks and carnival games. The fun continued on Saturday with the addition of children’s activities and games, craft vendors, the Country Store, the car show, and of course, the turning of the Harmar Bridge. On Sunday, the bridge was turned again, and the festival continued until 4:00 pm, at which time the weekend’s perfect weather took a turn for the worse. Just in time for volunteers and vendors to pack up and avoid most of the storm.

Although the bridge was closed in February of 2020 because it is no longer safe for regular pedestrian traffic, Sloter said it is still functional from the standpoint of turning the span to allow larger boat traffic to proceed on the river.

The rarity of a man-power operated turn span is something that we like to showcase in its own right, as there are very few of them left in the country.

Larry Sloter

“It was important for us to showcase that the bridge is still operational from the turning span aspect. With the bridge closed to pedestrian traffic, there have been some misperceptions as to why and turning the span allows us to put that question to rest,” said Sloter. “In addition, the rarity of a man-power operated turn span is something that we like to showcase in its own right, as there are very few of them left in the country.”

Held annually, the Harmar Days festival has historically served as the primary source of funds to maintain and operate the Harmar Bridge, cared for by the Historic Harmar Bridge Company. Since the bridge was turned and closed to pedestrian traffic last spring, the community and visitors alike have missed the vital role the bridge plays in both Marietta’s history and accessibility from Marietta’s west side to downtown. Now, the nonprofit is hoping to raise the funds needed to fully restore the bridge.

“Harmar Days serves as both a primary fundraiser for our efforts to save the bridge and by simply bringing attention to the cause,” said Sloter. “The more people that can be involved in understanding the history and purpose of the bridge, the better our opportunity to save it becomes. More awareness leads to improved fundraising.”

Swing span of the Harmar Bridge (Michelle Waters)

While the organization is still crunching numbers to tally up the total funds raised through this year’s festival, feedback from volunteers, participating vendors, and festivalgoers has been overwhelmingly positive.

The volunteers, most who have full time jobs, worked tirelessly to coordinate an event that not only provided fun activities for all ages, but raised much needed funds for this iconic bridge.

Laura Pytlik

“This was my first year actively participating in Harmar Days, and I was so impressed by the dedication and hard work I witnessed,” said Laura Pytlik, owner of Wit & Whimzy and a member of the Harmar Days committee.

“The volunteers, most who have full time jobs, worked tirelessly to coordinate an event that not only provided fun activities for all ages, but raised much needed funds for this iconic bridge,” she said. “It was a privilege to work with the committee and the positive response from visitors and community members was gratifying. I’m looking forward to Harmar Days 2022!”

Sloter said he also received a great deal of positive feedback from festivalgoers this year, with many commenting on the expansion of kid-friendly attractions.

”The [aspect] pointed out most was the large variety of kids activities that were available, many of which were free, and the rest were very low priced,” said Sloter. “The Arnold family’s steam engine train, the inflatable obstacle course (sponsored by The Boys and Girls Club), Building Bridges to Careers car racing tent as well as Family Grams (sponsored by The Marietta Times) were all completely free and kept kids, and their parents smiling all weekend. A selection of fair games and a dip in the Foam Garage pit were both very reasonably priced and added wonderful options for the families visiting the event.”

It was a fun, diverse mix of folks – I ran into some families with kids, couples out on dates, and big fans of both the music and beer garden.

Michael Bond

Others commented on the line-up of live, local music that took place on the main stage over the entire weekend, sponsored by Harris West Side Carry Out. Mark Doebrich, who leads High Schools That Rock, was excited to participate this year and is eager to come back again in 2022.

Lex Bauman performing on the Main Stage (Michelle Waters)

“Harmar Days had all of their ‘ducks in a row,’” he said. “A vision, expansion, great weather, and a drop in COVID-19 cases. Surely great volunteers made it special, too.”

The stage hosted acts from local and regional performers, including but not limited to Hannah Miller and Levi Westfall, Micah Kesselring, Justin Arthur, Joshua Lee, Lex Bauman, Stacey’s Dance Studio, Nate Shahan, Tyson Huck, David Huggins, Jack Comeau, and Austin Alexander.

Michael Bond, a local business owner and musician, said it was great to see everyone out and enjoying the west side. “The stage setup was great, I hope to see even more happen on it in the future,” said Bond. “It was a fun, diverse mix of folks – I ran into some families with kids, couples out on dates, and big fans of both the music and beer garden.”

I also enjoyed learning about the bridge and now that I know it is the last of its kind I want to help save it.

Lindsey Smith

Another attraction was the Car Show, hosted by the Belpre-based Dirt Bags Car Club. 106 cars participated in the show Saturday morning, taking over the Gilman United Methodist Church parking lot and expanding across Gilman Street. Classic cars in beautiful condition lined the street in overflow, making this one of the area’s largest local car shows. In an effort to support the Harmar Bridge, the Car Club is donating proceeds from the show to the Save Harmar Bridge fund.

Participating craft vendors said the weekend was a success. “It was a great weekend, I really enjoyed meeting everyone and talking about downtown Marietta,” said Lindsey Smith, owner of Greetings From Yours Truly. “I love meeting clients face to face and seeing their faces light up when they really love one of my designs. I also enjoyed learning about the bridge and now that I know it is the last of its kind I want to help save it.”

In addition to craft vendors, the festival featured local nonprofits connected to the Harmar Bridge, such as Main Street West and the Fort Street Pollinator Habitat group, and a myriad of food trucks and concessions.

Festivities came to a close on Sunday afternoon with the drawing of dozens of prizes that made up this year’s Country Store, all donated by local businesses and organizations. The crowd gathered on Maple to listen as Sloter called out each winning ticket. As the last few tickets were drawn, the wind picked up and volunteers hurriedly began to tear down and protect prizes and tents from the inclement weather. Just like that, the 2021 Harmar Days festival came to a close.

It was wonderful to see a great crowd out and the tremendous support for our organization and this great project.

Chuck Swaney

Those wishing to support the Historic Harmar Bridge still have time to purchase a Harmar Bridge Summer Raffle ticket before the drawing for the grand prize – a brand new 2021 Toyota Tacoma truck – on August 31. Tickets are being sold for $100 apiece and only 2,500 tickets are available. In addition to the 2021 Toyota Tacoma, ticket holders will have a chance to win numerous other high-dollar items, including several gift packages that were on display throughout Harmar Days. Tickets are available online atwww.SaveHarmarBridge.comand in person at All Pro Nutrition, Busy Bee Restaurant, Classic Cuts Beauty Shop, McCarter Health Center, Marietta Harbor, Monkey’s Uncle Tattoo, The Original Pizza Place, Passiflora Studio and Wit & Whimzy.

2021 Toyota Tacoma that will be given away in Summer Raffle (Shannon Brown)

“It was great to see Harmar Days back,” said Chuck Swaney, former Historic Harmar Bridge Company President and an active member of the Harmar community. “It was wonderful to see a great crowd out and the tremendous support for our organization and this great project.”

Festival Photography by Michelle Waters and Shannon Brown

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