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County festival to honor Orville Redenbacher

Friday, March 14, 2003

A new popcorn festival is being planned for Clay County. The first weekend of October is the target date for the event. Evelyn Brown was chosen president at Thursday's steering committee meeting.

A preliminary meeting was held Feb. 6 at the YMCA to discuss the feasibility of a festival to bring in tourism to Clay County. The Brazil Kiwanis, Preservation Association, Breakfast Optimists, Historical Society, Tri Kappa, as well as interested individuals were present. Peggy Berry who was present during the success of the YMCA, and Ken Pickett, Redenbacher historian and ConAgra contact, also were available to discuss the possibility of a county-wide festival.

The meeting of about 20 people was opened by Kiwanis member Charlie Brown who explained the purpose of the meeting which was get input from citizens, businesses, and organizations in supporting a Popcorn Festival in honor of Clay County's own, Orville Redenbacher. Those in attendance were positive that this would be beneficial and that it will require support by community industries, companies, businesses, and citizens.

Berry stated the importance of the festival. She referred to the work done with the YMCA, stating that a project of this kind takes time, community and business support and fortitude.

Ken Pickett provided the group with the background for the festival and history of Orville Redenbacher and his ties to Clay County. It was felt that a festival honoring Redenbacher, who lived in the Center Point area and grew his first popcorn hybrid here, would be a positive thing for all Clay County citizens. Pickett emphasized the need to stay focused on the positive. The entire group agreed that this should be a countywide festival including Clay City to Brazil and Cory to Poland.

Those on the initial exploratory committee includes Joe Dierdorf, Brown, Dianna Knox and Nick French from the Kiwanis; Evelyn Brown, Nancy Withers, Janie Krecker, and Glen Brown from the Preservation Association; Jim Hicks from the Historical Society; Berry from the YMCA; and Pickett. By setting the festival up the first week in October, it allows Clay County to compete for the Fall Festival Market that other counties share.

By the second meeting, held on Feb. 20 at the YMCA, the steering committee grew to 14 people. Nick French and Dianna Knox were voted in as co-chairpersons with election of secretary to be done at next meeting. Exploratory committees were set up to look at the feasibility of the Popcorn Festival and how it will influence Clay County's fame and bring in tourism that is needed badly. Committees include, but are not limited to, calendar of events, entertainment, vendors, letter-writing, corporate support, grant requests, advertisements, Courthouse Ball, budget, and fundraising events. The festival's plan is to include past single events such as the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast and Parade, Preservation Association's Cemetery Walk and Victorian Wake, and Historical Society's Museum Tour into the festival. The steering committee felt that the Popcorn Festival and single events would benefit each other to bring moneys in for individual organizations and businesses. They are looking for other single events to join in this two-day festival. It was stated that organizations would keep their profit from their events and maybe pay an entry fee into the festival that can be used for next year's festival operations.

Berry announced that Pat McCarter from the Putnam County Tourist Guide will set up the graphics on the Popcorn Festival with cards, brochures, and magazine articles through the state once we have our direction.

Committees will be set up to present the group's mission to the County Commissioners, City Councils, Park Boards, Churches, Veterans Groups, county organizations and businesses, Clay Community School Corporation, media corporations, Community Theatre, and most of all -- the citizens.

Facts gathered by the various committees will be presented at a finalizing meeting where letters of resolution for monies and grants are made. In addition, support letters from organizations and sponsors will be needed to accompany these resolution letters. Berry agreed that she would help with these. Packets will be mailed to groups such as the Clay County Community Foundation and ConAgra. ConAgra agreed last year to give the Popcorn Festival a $10,000 boost if we had such a packet to present and the group hopes that it is still available for this year.

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