ST. MARYS — Mother Nature cooperated on Sunday as an annual festival returned with some new additions.
The 42nd annual Kiwanis Walk with Nature Fall Festival attracted a large crowd to Memorial Park, fueled in part by a warm autumn afternoon. Walkers hit the towpath along the Miami and Erie Canal to take part in the walk. As they returned, walkers were greeted with a variety of activities, including a farmers’ market as well as Civil War re-enactors, a car show and live music.
“It’s going great, if we keep the sun out I’ll be tickled pink,” Organizer Stan Davis told The Evening Leader, noting he kept a keen eye on the weather reports after Saturday’s gusty conditions. “I was really concerned yesterday. I kept watching the forecasts but every weather forecast was different. I just kept my fingers crossed.”
The walk included a 3.3 mile trek from the gazebo in Memorial Park to 40 Acre Pond. The warm fall day helped attract hundreds of walkers to downtown. In addition to the walk, walkers could shop among a handful of booths, learn about the Civil War and view some classic cars on High Street. The event also featured a historic train tour of downtown St. Marys provided by the St. Marys Community Partnership.
“Three years ago, we kind of made the decision to throw in a fall festival,” Davis said. “Before that, we just did the walk. It seemed like kind of a waste so we wanted to add a few more things for the kids.”
The first expansion saw the inclusion of a hot dog stand. Davis noted the event has exploded into a family oriented festival.
“We are growing and getting more events for the kids,” Davis said. “I think this is the biggest year yet as far as what we have here.”
The new additions, Davis noted, helped to draw a larger crowd.
“We’ve added music,” Davis said. “We added in the Rendezvous Group, which is north of High Street. There are 18 campsites over there and they are a bunch of good, fun people. We also have a bunch of people from Delphos on the canal boat dressed in period costumes. Part of our plan was to add re-enactors.”
As streams of walkers filed past him, Davis thanked the community for turning out to support the event.
“Kiwanis is all about children and the community,” Davis said. “We have a lot of community events. There’s a lot of free things here to do and it’s not a carnival, it’s a festival. It’s very family oriented and that’s exactly what our aim is.”
Jennifer Mott, of Columbus, was among a handful of Civil War re-enactors who took up camp in Memorial Park. Mott, whose husband is from Celina, represented the 40th Ohio Division.
“It’s historic preservation, that’s what we are all about,” Mott told The Evening Leader. “We want to see that history live on, specifically for our unit but also for Civil War history.”
The group travels to festivals to teach Ohioans about the history of the 40th Ohio. The re-enactors dressed in time period clothing and set up a mini campsite for visitors.
“We usually do the fire thing — they were trying to do it with a magnifying glass but because the sun is a little hesitant, it didn’t work out well,” Mott said. “They did try to do the flint and steel, which is how we got the fire going. We also will show them some of the military moves the men will do.”
Mott also said the group tells visitors the role women played during the Civil War.
“We were a part of this, too,” Mott said. “The women a lot of times were going to be at home, taking care of the home life, the farm life that was around. They also helped make bandages, took care of the sick soldiers when they were around. If you were fortunate enough to be the wife of an officer, you would spend your winters with your husband in camp.”
Mott said her favorite part of being a re-enactor is the opportunity to interact with the public.
“I love being here with the people,” Mott said. “The history is just really wonderful and exciting.”