The annual festival in Leesburg opens Thursday, but this year will usher in changes that organizers hope will help the festival grow with each new year.
One change is the name, which according to festival director and Leesburg Lions Club member Wendy Holliday, this year is known as the Leesburg Candle-lite Fest, a name born of the local manufacturer becoming a partner in the annual event.
Another change, Holliday previously announced, is the creation of a website devoted to the festival. The site offers access to changes, updates, information, festival maps, and forms for vendors and sponsors.
The three-day festival will be held June 16-18 at the Leesburg Fire Department, 200 South St. It is chaired and organized by the Leesburg Lions Club.
According to Holliday, things will kick off Thursday, June 16 at 6 p.m. with the opening ceremony. Opening prayer will be offered by pastor Rich Alan of the Leesburg United Methodist Church. Guest speakers will include Highland County Commissioner Jeff Duncan, Guy Baily with Candle-lite, and county commission candidate Tara Mathews Campbell.
Holliday said after the opening ceremony a deejay will provide music and vendors will be open. Also, the fire department’s fish fry will be going on and begins earlier in the day at 11 a.m.
On Friday the live entertainment will feature Sean Poole at 3 p.m., the 4 Given Gospel Quartet at 6 p.m., and Retro Classic Rock at 7 p.m. Saturday’s live entertainment begins at 2 p.m. with the Red Idle Rejects, and then at 7 p.m. Mr. Chris and the Cruisers with special guest Kalysta Minton from “America’s Got Talent.”
Holliday said attendees should bring lawn chairs for the musical events.
A 5K race will kick things off on Saturday, with registration beginning at 7 a.m. and the race beginning at 8 a.m.
There will be fundraisers at the festival, Holliday said, including the annual Little Miss and Little Mr. Leesburg contest from the Fairfield Middle School Cheerleaders. Also, Boy Scout Troop 453 will be selling jerky, and festival T-shirts are being sold with proceeds benefiting KAMP Dovetail and the Highland County Humane Society. Holliday said organizers are also collecting cans for KAMP Dovetail, as well as cash donations.
A Kidz Zone will be open Friday and Saturday from noon to 9 p.m. each day for all-day play with bounce houses and carnival games, Holliday said.
Festival T-shirts, maps, schedules, raffle tickets, and information will be available at the Leesburg Lions Club welcome booth. KAMP Dovetail collections will also be taken at the booth.
Along with the fire department’s fish fry, a myriad of other tasty offerings will be available throughout the festival with various vendors.
As previously reported, the festival will be held rain or shine, and security will be provided by the Highland County Sheriff’s Office.
For more information, announcements, fest maps, and more go to leesburgcandle-litefest.com.
Holliday, who’s lived in Leesburg for about a decade, said she always heard that the festival used to be a big deal for the village. She said “tradition and community values” were good reasons to keep it going. “Hopefully,” she said, “we’ll see the festival grow again.”
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.