Gnadenhutten Fireworks Festival announces changes

Gnadenhutten Fireworks Festival announces changes
Teri Stein

Hope Johnson, one of the organizers of the Fireworks Festival, is hoping changes to the festival this year will provide more opportunities for fun and bring in additional funding to support the event.


In 2020 when the Gnadenhutten Fireworks Festival was canceled, fireworks were launched from a field at Stocker Concrete across from Heck’s Grove Park, where they are normally held.

The location change worked out so well the fireworks will be set off from there again this year. The firework show is being organized by volunteer Jason Quillen of Top Notch Auto. This year’s show will cost more.

“We will have the same show as in the park, but it’s a world of difference when you go outside the park. The shells have to be higher, and you’re spending double the money on one shot,” said Hope Johnson, one of the organizers of the festival.

Still, after all people have been through with the pandemic, Johnson is thrilled the festival will go on this year.

“My heart is just so excited — excited to see little kids running around, people enjoying themselves outdoors and sitting and talking to one another. It’s just a fun atmosphere,” Johnson said. “Everyone is smiling and laughing.”

There is a change among those in the community too with COVID-19 restrictions lifted.

“There is purpose now. We’re back to normal. I think a lot of people are going to come out,” Johnson said. “People want to be out there, and they are appreciating the things that go on.”

The change of location for the fireworks display will allow for more space to add activities and make additional money for the festival, which will be held for two nights this year on July 2-3 at Heck’s Grove Park.

“There will be a lot of new food trucks coming and a new ride company,” Johnson said.

Some of the new food vendors scheduled include DiRusso’s Sausage, Michael’s Confections, Messdad’s, and some featuring pizza and stromboli.

Bortner Shows Midway LLC, also the ride company for the Tusky Days Festival, will provide attractions at the Fireworks Festival. Johnson thanked Matt Ritenour, a member of the Tusky Days committee, for his help with this year’s Fireworks Festival. “I really appreciate him helping me,” she said.

New to the festival is a beer garden operated by the Indian Valley Athletic Booster Club. It will be set up on the tennis court both nights from 4-10 p.m. One court will be open for dancing.

The competition to select royalty will be held prior to the festival on June 30 at the IVHS auditorium in Gnadenhutten. Applications are still being accepted and can be picked up at the Village Gift Shoppe. All entrants must reside in the Indian Valley School District. They will select a Little Miss Firecracker (grade k-2 for 2021-22 school year), Junior Miss Firecracker (grade 3-5 for 2021-22 school year) and a festival queen, who will be in high school for the next school year.

Events on Friday, July 2 will start at 3 p.m. when the midway opens with a pet parade at the park.

“We need more pets, and we like all unusual pets. It’s fun. We’ve had cows and goats before,” Johnson said.

The fun will continue with the introduction of the royalty on the stage, announcement of the winners of the baby contest and the junior parade marshals at 6 p.m.

Friday night’s entertainment will feature a talent show at 6:30 p.m., and the Tomahawk Trot 5k run/walk will begin at 7 p.m.

The Sparkling Lion Champagne band from Gnadenhutten will perform from 8-11 p.m. The band’s performance is sponsored by the Indian Valley Sports Boosters.

Bingo also will be held both days of the festival, Friday from 7-11 p.m. and Saturday from 6-10 p.m.

Saturday’s events include the Kustom Kemp car show from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Serving will begin at 11 a.m. for the Gnaden Lion’s Club chicken barbecue. At 2 p.m. the Grand Parade will kick off, and from 6-10 p.m. the band Sneak Preview will perform. The group is sponsored by the John Hursey Memorial Fund, Brotherhood Heating and Cooling, and Tony Mart.

Cheryl Foote, a longtime supporter of the Fireworks Festival and member of the event committee, is the Grand Parade marshal this year. Foote helped her brother, the late Jim Foote, create the Country Fantasy in the Sky fireworks show. “She’s helped so much and been with us so long. She needs to be recognized,” Johnson said.

There will be a $20 entry fee this year to enter the parade to help offset the increasing festival costs. Participants should line up on Zimmerman Road, and Johnson will collect the money as she gives out the parade numbers.

The annual crock auction will be at 8 p.m. on Saturday with Bob Hall as the auctioneer. The 10 crocks of varying colors feature a design of stars and fireworks on a black background. They were made by Jane Donahue of Tuscarawas. Stocker Concrete has donated a package of Indians tickets worth $400, and other items also may be available at the auction to help support the festival.

The Gnadenhutten Fireworks Festival has added a PayPal and Venmo account, and donations can be made at @gnadenfireworks. “We wanted an easier way for people to support us, and you can send any amount,” Johnson said.

New this year will be memorial firework shots. For a $25 donation, the Fireworks Festival will light a firework during the grand finale in memory of a lost loved one. The names will be posted on a sign and read aloud at the event. Visit the Village Gift Shoppe to arrange a memorial shot.

A VIP seating section has been added to a portion of the baseball field’s grassy area. A $25 donation will reserve a spot for one to 10 people. Reserve your spot by visiting the Village Gift Shoppe.

The festival will again partner with WTUZ to coordinate music for the fireworks.

Other sponsors include the Commercial and Savings Bank, Koch Funeral Home, and DTS Screen Printing & Embroidery.

Following the festival, a Sunday church service will be held July 4 at the Gnadenhutten Town Hall at 10:30 a.m.

Other committee members who assisted in planning the festival include Alisha Povick, Toni Campbell and Wendy Beamer.

More events and auction items may be added. Check the Gnadenhutten Fireworks Festival Facebook page for updates.

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