The 2016 Festival of the Bells was blessed by comfortable temperatures, local vendors and popular musical acts, helping make it another success even as planning is already underway for next year’s festival.
Michael Bradford, festival committee president, said over the weekend that with the weather cooperating, great acts lined up and “a wonderful parade,” the festival was turning into “another big event.”
Rick Williams, entertainment director for the festival, on Monday confirmed Bradford’s early optimism, saying that Friday night’s crowd was the largest of the three-day event, when Jana Kramer performed in concert. But the Thursday and Saturday crowds were good too, featuring Christian group Building 429 and Phil Vassar, respectively. In fact, fans came from as far as Chicago to see Vassar, said Williams.
Williams said Hillsboro is a popular tour stop by musical acts, as evidenced by comments from band members or road managers who have been through Hillsboro before.
Williams said one of Vassar’s musicians had been to Hillsboro with performer Bucky Covington in 2008, and he told his current bandmates, “You’re going to love this place. The people know how to treat you, and the food is great.” He said 2015 festival performer Chase Bryant’s manager extols Hillsboro to performers, as do many others who have played here.
Williams said he appreciated the “SkyWatch” mobile surveillance tower that was on hand for the festival after Hillsboro Police Chief Todd Whited made arrangements for its presence with Ohio Homeland Security.
“It was wonderful,” said Williams, a former sheriff’s deputy, noting that when the festival committee was briefed on the availability of the tower, he said, “We’ve got to do this.” Whited said Monday there were no major problems during the festival, and the tower helped serve as a deterrent to crime or violence.
Williams said that returning the car show to the uptown area was a positive move, attracting good crowds. He said the festival will look at expanding the car show in the future.
Festival committee members always take pride in how quickly they clean up the city after the event wraps up Saturday night. Williams said they finished this year at around 2 a.m. Sunday. After getting six hours, four hours and then three hours of sleep each night, Williams said he crashed for 11 hours on Sunday.
Williams said he is recharged and looking ahead to next year, when the festival will likely be held July 6-8. He said he already has four performers in mind who the entertainment committee will begin scouting for possible booking next year.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.