Each year, Beavercreek is the center of the popcorn universe the weekend after Labor Day, love it or loathe it - what's your plan?
Since 1987, the city of Beavercreek has hosted the FINEST festival in the Miami Valley - but its origin actually dates earlier, to a parking lot near you!
For decades, the southeast corner of North Fairfield Road and Lantz Road was the home of the Bellfair Country Store and Restaurant. Opening its doors in 1965, it exuded a rustic charm that even then reached to yesteryear. The decor was simple, tin signs, trinkets and mementos of the past. The fare even simpler, including penny-candy, ice cream and the most delicious classic sodas and phosphates you could find!
Owner Gary Deis sought an original idea to thank his customers, his inspiration came from the shop's popcorn machine and the Popcorn Festival was born. The venue was the Bellfair parking lot, with the Deis family covering all the costs. The popcorn-themed menu included popcorn soup and popcorn burgers, according to Gary...
"Popcorn burgers, what was nice about them - we'd put raw popcorn in 'em and instead of us having to stand there and turn them, they'd just pop and turn over... and if you believe that, I've got another one..."
In 1987, the Deis family turned over operation of the festival to the city of Beavercreek. The city maintained the festival rules of being family friendly:
- Only handcrafted items to be sold
- No carnival rides or games
- Designated area for politicians to politic, with a prohibition of roaming the crowd
Each year, an Honorary Popcorn Kernel (get it?) is selected as Grand Marshall, the honorees are as follows:
- 1987 Dale Huffman
- 1989 Marsha Barnhard
- 1990 Gary Deis
- 1991 Tony Zaharieff
- 1992 Phil Hallman
- 1993 Charli Johnson
- 1994 Sandy Watson
- 1995 Betty Hammerle
- 1996 Mark DiBenedetto
- 1997 Earl Paquette
- 1998 Marc Marderosian
- 1999 Tom & Ruth Mitsoff
- 2000 Harley Coon
- 2001 Gussie Jones
- 2002 Phil & Pam Black
- 2003 Jim Brown
- 2004 Denny Morrison
- 2005 Tony Romano
- 2006 John Ankeney
- 2007 Mike Cornell
- 2008 Nick Apple
- 2009 Tom O’Diam
- 2010 Roger Coy
- 2011 Ben O’Diam
- 2012 Dr. Gayle Ferguson
- 2013 Wilfred & Louise Jones
- 2014 Bob Zimmer
Annual entertainment includes an car show and numerous musical performances. Additional events include a 5K run, the first performances of the year by the Beavercreek dance teams, firetrucks and medics, famed local chainsaw artist, Keith Maxwell and much more! In the past, hot air balloon launches from Shoup Park were commonplace.
And then there's the FOOD!! Booth after booth of deliciousness - from creative popcorn-enhanced favorites to local restaurants, food trucks and perennial festival fare!
Local merchants along both Dayton-Xenia and North Fairfield Road are wonderfully cooperative with the two-day festival, and the organizing committee works diligently to maintain access to as many as possible.
The festival closes a third-of-a-mile of the most traveled section of road in Greene County and attracts tens of thousands of visitors to our community. So for locals, a bit of thinking ahead is advised when you get behind the wheel.
Obviously the festival isn't for everyone. Whether it's the traffic, the crowds, the hassle or the humbug, many residents choose to avoid the area completely.
Others eagerly await the September weekend, anxious for the great entertainment, crafts, beaver-centric goodies, the delicious vittles, and obviously - the popcorn!
My festival routine you ask?! Gladly I'll share it!! Thanks for asking!
I'm typically a twice-a-weekend person... I enjoy the fresh opening Saturday morning while the streets are sparsely populated and the vendors are completing their set-up and eager to see their first customers. It's a great time to catch elected officials, agency officials, charity operators, and those running for local office prior to their blisters setting in from hours on hot asphalt! I always enjoy a cold sarsaparilla during my visit to 'Politicians Peak' in the Dayspring Ministries parking lot - I highly recommend you get to know those who would like to represent you! A stroll through car show in Shoup Park follows, and subsequently the rows of vendors with infrequent stops at anything representing 'guy stuff' is invariably interrupted by a savory pork chop sandwich en route to the overly-generous 5K awards, BHS Marching Band and Beavercreek Dance Team performances.
Hopefully without comment from my physician, Dr. Chris Aviles, my exit includes a way-too-soon, hearty helping of Bourbon Chicken while exiting to the west to catch a bit of Keith Maxwell carving timber with a chainsaw and the wonderful Beavercreek Fire Department experience for youth to enjoy.
Sunday afternoon marks my return to re-visit booths I previously enjoyed, while lamenting the fact that what I was interested in has long-since sold. I soothe my anxiety with some chicken satay skewers and/or some kettle corn while visiting with friends, silver and gold.
I genuinely enjoy the Popcorn Festival each and every year. The organizing committee and city support services have refined their systems to a T and absolutely nail it every year. Even the vendors and sponsors sing their praises by renewing annually at the very first opportunity.
It's certainly a busy festival weekend, also highlighted by the Italian Fall Festa and the Greek Fest, but there's time and gastronomical opportunities for all!
Next year be sure to look for the BeavercreeksFinest.com booth!
So what is your routine? Whether pro or con... please leave your comments and memories below!