Pulling off a three-day festival at a brand new location after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus and some hiccups from Mother Nature did not make things exactly easy, but Festival of the Bells President Rick Williams said he thought the event that ran Thursday through Saturday was pretty good.
“I think the location will get better each year and you can’t control the rain, of course, which put a damper on Thursday and a little on Friday maybe, too,” Williams said. “Friday and Saturday attendance was good, and on Thursday we couldn’t control Mother Nature. But we had a lot of good comments and everyone seems to think the location will get better.”
The new location, a large green space off West Main Street donated to the city of Hillsboro, hosted its inaugural event. Williams said that in the future the city hopes to use grant money to place a stage, restrooms and possibly other things at the site.
The stage for this year’s event was originally set up on the south side of the green space, where the ground sloped toward the stage and made a sort of natural amphitheater. But the stage had to be moved overnight Thursday night/Friday morning after a big rain storm Wednesday and another one Thursday left the area in front of the stage muddy. Williams said the city brought in stone to make the secondary location more dry and that city employees worked until 4 a.m. Friday morning to get the new area ready for evening’s concert.
“I can’t enough about words about the things (Hillsboro Public Works Superintendent) Shawn Adkins and his crew with the street department did, along with everyone including the police and fire departments,” Williams said.
The close of the festival was more bittersweet than usual for Williams since he is stepping down after 34 years with the Festival of the Bells Committee, including the last 28 as president or co-president.
“It’s been more than half my life being involved with the festival,” said Williams, noting that he will continue to work at his personal business. “I won’t actually be finished until the end of the year, but there will be a new group, and they’ll be fine. I think we did a lot of good things for the community, and I have always said that people need to give back. In my personal business, people are always out there supporting me, so I feel it is important that we give back, and I would challenge all people to do the same.”
He said Saturday was especially tough because of a tribute to Beverly Carroll, a longtime festival committee member who died June 27 at the age of 60.
“It was tough Saturday night having the Bev Carroll thing because we lost a good person,” Williams said. “It got to me.”
He said that because July 4 falls on a Tuesday next year, he’s not sure when next year’s festival will be held, but if he had to guess it would be July 6-8. He said that usually, when the Fourth of July falls in the middle of the week, the committee moves to the festival to the following weekend.
Williams said the plan is to hold the festival at the city’s new green space again next year.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.