Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Piqua Heritage Festival - Johnston Farm & Indian Agency

Food Booths, Antique Tractors and some of the Demonstration Booths.
The Piqua Heritage Festival is my favorite event held in my hometown of Piqua, Ohio.  The festival began in 1981 and is a family friendly celebration of Piqua history, local food and crafts.  The festival includes a variety of entertainment, music, children's crafts and games and a pre-1870s encampment.  While attending the festival, you can also visit the Johnston Farm & Indian Agency, located just off of the festival grounds.   If you watch Parks and Recreation on NBC, the Heritage Festival is a lot like the Pawnee Harvest Festival, minus Li'l Sebastian and Leslie Knope!

I'm including a review of the festival on my blog because while Piqua is not in Central Ohio, it's an easy hour and a half drive from the Capital City and is definitely worth the trip!

Heritage Festival Tents and the Petting Zoo.

The Heritage Festival is always held on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend.  I can only remember one year when the weather the entire weekend did not feel like it was the middle of July or August; it's almost always hot and sticky outside!  The one year I remember it not being hot, it was miserably cold and rained the entire weekend!

I have been going to the festival since I was a child, I even came home from college in Athens a few years (I think I missed at least one) to make it - it's not really Labor Day without it!  Since I've been to the festival for many years, this review is about the festival itself, not just the 2013 festival (though that is when all of the photos were taken).

Demonstration Booths.

My mom and dad went to the festival when it first began in the early 1980s.  My Mom said it's changed a lot since then and has grown in size.  The festival used to include a band contest and people who attended dressed in 1800s pioneer or Native American clothing (people still do this today, but not as many that used to).  I thought it was interesting that my mom said the festival has changed at lot, for me, it's always seemed like the same festival.  A vendor or two might change each year, but from my memories as a child to earlier this month when Kenneth and I went it seems virtually the same.  I find this strangely comforting, so many things have changed in Piqua since I graduated high school, it's nice that the Heritage Festival today feels like the same festival when I was growing up.

Both my parents and Kenneth's volunteered at the Piqua Parents Teacher Association booth, selling ice cream.  Surprisingly enough, even though Kenneth and I are only a year apart in age, the time that my parents volunteered at the ice cream booth and the time Kenneth's parents volunteered did not overlap and we didn't meet until Junior High (we went to different elementary schools).  Our experience at the Heritage Festival as kids though is remarkably similar, we both remember making crafts and visiting the Johnston Farm House and Indian Agency with our younger sibling in tow.  The best parts about the farm house and the Indian museum were that they were air conditioned and the farm house usually gave out samples of homemade bread and butter!

Scenes from the pre-1870s encampment, the Corn Crib and the tractor pull.

There's a lot of delicious food at the festival, Kenneth and I listed every food we can remember tasting (or smelling) at the festival over the years: corn on the cob, apple dumplings, ice cream, chicken and noodles, fried tenderloin, Cajun foods (red beans and rice), French fries, lemon shake-up, root beer, funnel cake, burgers, hot dogs, pulled pork, chicken sandwiches... I'm sure we've missed some items, there's so much food at the festival!

There are three large tents with vendors selling handmade crafts and decorations for the home.  In the pre-1870s encampment you can purchase 'old-timey' crafts and antiques, the vendors or campers are not allowed to have any modern items in their campsite.  It's a little bit like the Ohio Renaissance Festival in that all of the campers look like they've stepped out of the late 1800s while you're wearing jeans and t-shirt and looking improperly dressed for the era. It's fun though, I've always enjoyed browsing the tents that are selling antiques and 'old-timey' clothing.

These photos were all taken at the Johnston Farm.

My favorite part of the festival is the demonstrations booths.  Here you can participate in candle dipping or watch a blacksmith or potter in action.  There are also booths demonstrating how to make bread, apple butter, maple syrup, kettle corn and butter.  In the past my favorite booth was the sassafras tea booth.  Sassafras tea is delicious and smells amazing!  I think the first time I came home from college for the festival was the first year the sassafras tea booth was gone - I've been looking for it every year since!

Some activities to check out at the festival are a variety of musical acts, they seem to change it up a bit every year (check the schedule for full details).  When I was younger I remember hearing a lot of Peruvian plan flute music, which I loved!  This year I noticed there were folk and bluegrass bands playing, as well as an Elvis impersonator. There is usually a Johnny Appleseed entertainer at the festival as well as a spelling bee and petting zoo for the kids.  There used to be a hay maze, which I spent many hours in as a kid!  This year we saw the corn crib (it looked like a giant sandbox filled with dry corn kernels - the kids loved it!) and a little tractor pull ride.  There is also an annual fun run and a 5K run on Saturday morning of the festival.  I ran it with my fellow cross country team members when I was in high school!

These photos were all taken at the Johnston Farm.

The Heritage Festival is a wonderful event and I highly recommend it!  I feel like this blog post isn't doing it justice - you have to check it out yourself!  The 2014 Piqua Heritage Festival will be held on August 30th, 31st and September 1st - mark your calendar!

For fun ideas of what to do when you visit Piqua, check out my post, Hometown Highlight: Piqua, on OHventures!