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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Festival sees changes over ten years

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

One area festival seems to just keep growing.

In its 10th year, the Popcorn Festival of Clay County started as small as a kernel and has since popped into a large, buttery event.

In 2002, area resident Kenny Pickett got a group of locals together, asking them to help in putting together a popcorn festival for Clay County.

After some research, the group was able to get ConAgra Foods, which produced Orville Redenbacher popcorn products, to donate $10,000 to start the festival.

According to Popcorn Festival Marketing Director Glen Brown, the group of individuals, including Brown, put together a board of members and set up bylaws for the organization. The board then discussed the festival demographics while meeting at the Clay County YMCA once a month. The board became members of the Indiana State Festival Association, and many attended training seminars.

The board elected officers and decided they wanted to put a festival together in less than one year. Many different organizations came together to complete the goal.

"We hooked up with the Marion, Ohio, Popcorn Festival," Brown said. "They were so instrumental in telling us how to handle the festival and how to run it. They adopted us and are now our sister popcorn festival."

Brown said the Ohio board members really helped, and since then, the Popcorn Festival of Clay County has greatly blossomed.

In its first year, the Popcorn Festival had an estimated 4-5,000 visitors. In 2011, the festival had grown to approximately 18-20,000 visitors.

The Popcorn Festival had a total of 10 members when it first began. Now the festival has an estimated 30 board members. Also, in 2002 the Popcorn Festival was a two-and-a-half day event. Now, it has grown into a four-day event, starting on Thursday.

The festival includes food and craft vendors, as well as flea market items.

"It's unique because we do not duplicate vendors," Brown told The Brazil Times. "There's no competition between vendors and they will want to come back the next year because they know they are the only one selling that item."

The festival also provides a venue for non-profit organizations to sell items or educate the public on their cause.

"We wanted quality vendors from the very first year," Brown said. "We love our food vendors, and we are really pleased with the non-profits who have joined the group."

Since the beginning, the board wanted the festival to have an emphasis on local music and bands.

"Festivals come alive with music," Brown said. "Festivals without music don't have the exciting effect."

Two years ago, the board approved the Corn Stock Fest, a music event within the Popcorn Festival. Local, cover and tribute bands can all use the venue to perform. This year, Corey Cox, a nationally known country western singer, will perform. Cox performed at the Super Bowl last year.

"We try to make the festival the best ever," Brown said. "We have the best amusement rides, best of local talent, dance studios and bands."

Other than food vendors and music performances, the Popcorn Festival also offers plenty of popcorn. The board hands out free popcorn throughout the entire event. The festival offers a popcorn-eating contest and a world-renown Orville Redenbacher look-a-like contest.

"We're the only festival with such a contest," Brown said. "We try to keep the festival as corny as possible."

The Popcorn Festival of Clay County has been featured on the Food Network twice, as well as the NPR station across Indiana.

"We are really growing," Brown said. "We hope in 20 years we are going to be bringing in big name bands and rocking the county."

This year, the board expects somewhere between 20-22,000 visitors. But the festival couldn't take place without the help of volunteers.

"People are always wanting to volunteer, which we love," Brown said. "Volunteers are wonderful, and we have to give a lot of credit to our sponsor. Every year, it just amazes us how much support we get from the Wabash Valley."

Most of the festival's events are free. Brown told The Brazil Times the only parts of the festival someone would have to spend money on are the amusement rides or if someone wants to buy food or souvenirs.

This year, the Popcorn Festival of Clay County takes place Oct. 4-7, at Forest Park.

"It's only as good as the people who attend," Brown said. "We have been blessed that it keeps growing."

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As a resident of Clay County but not of Brazil I can see two changes that need to be made in this festival and the others of Clay County.

First, you refer to it as the Clay County Popcorn Festival but, it seems to me it should be called the Brazil Popcorn Festival because it's all about Brazil and not about Clay County. Why is the whole county not part of the festival?

Second, I recieve the Indiana Festival Guild free of charge every year from the Indiana Department of Tourism. Most festivals in Indiana are listed.

There are alot of counties that have half or full page adds promoting all of the festivals in that county through out the year.

Why doesn't all of Clay County work together to promote their festivals and quit working like a bunch of little islands. There are several really nice festivals throughout the county that I think would be helped by working together.

Last weekend I went to the Fall festival in Center Point for the first time. Yes it was small but it was a nice festival. This week you have Cory, next week The Popcorn Festival. Throughout the year there is the Forth of July, Clay City, Saline City, and the granddaddy of them all Bowling Green. [I'm sure I missed one someplace].

The festivals are some the jewels this county has to offer. Why don't we show them off together?

-- Posted by CALL'EM AS I C'M on Wed, Sep 26, 2012, at 2:47 PM

Glad you asked!! I don't understand why you think that the Popcorn Festival of Clay County does not include the entire county? Can you be more specific?

Popcorn Festival of Clay County is listed in the Festival Guide but to have a more than a listing costs quite a bit of money. To be listed in this guide a festival must be members of the Indiana State Festival Assoc. and that cost money too.

Popcorn Festival is more than willing to share advertising cost with other festivals and events that occur through the year within Clay County. It would be an asset for all to do so.

-- Posted by doingitright on Thu, Sep 27, 2012, at 1:31 PM


Your last sentence is the main point to the second part of my comment. It would be an asset fot all to do so.

As to the first point, Why does the new water tower down by I-70 and 59 say WELCOME TO BRAZIL, HOME OF THE POPCORN FESTIVAL, and not wolcome to Clay County? When the Popcorn Festival is brought up in convesation by both Clay County and non Clay County people I always hear it referred to as the Brazil's Popcorn Festival. If it's suppost to be all over the county then why isn't it?

I take it that you live in or near Brazil and can't see this, but I can.

-- Posted by CALL'EM AS I C'M on Thu, Sep 27, 2012, at 8:44 PM

The location of the festival does designate who the festival includes. I am not sure how one would expect the festival to be all over the county?? The Festival has to have a location. Forest Park was chosen, Forest Park is in Brazil, Brazil is in Clay County. Everyone is invited to enjoy the festival.

-- Posted by doingitright on Sun, Sep 30, 2012, at 7:38 PM

Parke County doesn't seem to have a problem.

-- Posted by CALL'EM AS I C'M on Mon, Oct 1, 2012, at 12:12 AM

The festival does include the whole county. The water tower at I-70 promotes the festival. It is owned by the City of Brazil, hence why it says Brazil. The tower isn't owned by Clay County.

I wish the festival committees could work together more to promote the county and all the festivals. A small committee, "Festivals of Clay County, Indiana," to promote the committees. They could have fund raisers that assist all the festivals.

-- Posted by Unsolicitedtidbits on Tue, Oct 2, 2012, at 3:47 PM

I think we all agree that it would be better if all the festivals worked together and there was better promotion throughout the county. One thing I noticed in the Indiana Festival Guild, most of the counties that had ads, had a tourism and visitors bureau or something to that effect. Maybe that could be something that should be started in this county [WITHOUT ANY POLITICS INVOLVED]. Tourism in a lot of places is big business, it draws people, that draws money, that create jobs.

This past weekend I was at the Cory Apple Festival. It was a beautiful weekend and there was wall to wall people on Saturday. That would have been a good time to have some promotion of all activities in Clay County throughout the entire year.

-- Posted by CALL'EM AS I C'M on Tue, Oct 2, 2012, at 9:07 PM

I agree. I just think in the past the festivals and committees have had to struggle on their own and pulling together as one team is something new that I'm sure they would be willing to do, they just haven't. Even a facebook group promoting Clay County Festivals would be cool!

-- Posted by Unsolicitedtidbits on Thu, Oct 4, 2012, at 9:26 AM

I think it would be wise to have a central location where all festivals, fish fry's, parades, community meetings, civil events, etc. are all managed by one office. This way, although not mandatory, some community events would not be overlapping. On Sept. 22 for example, I believe the K-Day parade, the Center Point Fall Festival and a couple more things were going on, all on the same day, near the same time. It would be wise and politically correct if organizations could work together and eliminate such things. Make your plans, call the office and see if anything else is scheduled that day. If something is planed, it would be courteous to not have your event that day.

-- Posted by steve47834 on Sun, Oct 7, 2012, at 2:01 PM

I agree with you steve47834!!

-- Posted by doingitright on Thu, Oct 11, 2012, at 10:31 AM

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