By Jolene Hawkins
Looking Back ….. have you ever sat around a table having coffee and snacks , chatting with friends and say ..” wouldn’t it be cool if there was a place where…” and then all present would rattle off ideas? Well, that is kind of what happened in 1988 when Harland and Jane Kester, along with Jerry and Joni Taylor, were sitting around the kitchen table throwing ideas around and well, The WNY Dairy Festival was formed. On June 17, 1989, a few months later, in the TOPS parking lot, was the first Dairy Festival.
Now that day was memorable for several reasons. One was, I had moved up late in the summer the year before, and the Cub Scout group our son was in, Cub Pack 642, had games for others to play set up so I was there, for the whole day, and I got sunburned for the first time.
Second was that I was introduced to Bossie Bingo. Now folks, I kid you not…. there was a calf in a pen with a grid chalked into the grass, along with numbers, a fence around the area, and you could buy a chance on where the calf would .. well poop. I had moved up from Texas and had never, ever heard of this before. But I learned that day that not only would folks stand around and wait for a cow to poop, but that we had a HUGE dairy following in this area. Why, you ask? We have some of the most beautiful, family owned dairy farms around! Everyone either has a dairy farm, worked on one or knows someone who does. The parade that year was just around the parking lot. Games were set up, grills were fired up for hot dogs and hamburgers, tents set up with some info and people came and enjoyed themselves.
In 1991, they introduced the Ambassador/Princess competition. You voted by placing coins into milk cartons with a photo of the person on it, they were scattered around in different local businesses, with the money going to different charities. The event with all its wackiness, such as wheelbarrow races, relay races, 4-H petting zoos, clowns, free milk, free balloons and clogging, had outgrown the TOPS parking lot and moved in front of the stores on Franklin Street.
By 1993, the Dairyfest had spread to Fidders Green Park and the athletic fields at the High School, with kiddie rides and teen rides, music stages set up with foot stomping music from live bands, dance groups, games, pedal tractor races, bed races, FFA chicken BBQ. All of this was kicked off with a parade with several divisions.
Another feature that this event brought was Drive Your Tractor to School Day, usually on the first day of the festival. How spectacular it is to drive by the High School on that day and see old tractors, little tractors, BIG tractors, red ones, green ones, pedal tractors, all lined up in front on the grass. Now that is something that you do not see everywhere!
From there, Ag. Educational tents, full of free samples and fun, free milk , food vendors, old and new farm equipment, craft tents, Civil War encampments, old cars… you name it and it was at the Dairy Fest!
Since then, it grew and changed locations, went from one day to three days, improved every year, and continued to support local famers. The Dairy of Distinction award is given out during this time. Did you know that 75 percent of the agriculture industry in Western New York is dairy?
This year, due to property improvements at the high school, the WNY Dairy Festival is taking a break, and planning special events for 2019, which will be the 30th Anniversary.
Be sure to stop by the Heritage Building located at 17 Franklin Street, behind the Mercantile, where you will see a display in the rotation display area all about the Dairy Fest! (You can also hear some great music on Tuesday and Thursday 7 to 9 p.m.) The Springville Dairy is open for the season so you can enjoy some ice cream as well. For more information, contact us at (716) 592-0094, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Or stop by!