7/17/2013 12:40:00 PM 50 years of celebrating the bluegil
The annual summer celebration in Birchwood has reached a milestone. This year, the Bluegill Festival is in its 50th year. And the celebration promises to be better than ever and as much fun as always. Activities kick off this week as Bluegill buttons hit the area businesses ready for purchase. Cost of a button is $2 and comes with a souvenir program. Lions Club pins are also for sale and come with a cash raffle chance. The fishing contest begins this Wednesday. The person catching the largest bluegill wins $75 if wearing a Bluegill Fest button and $25 if not. This contest is for ages 15 and up. There is also a junior fishing contest for those 14 and under. All fish can be registered at Seasonal Power Toys. The Bluegill Medallion Hunt also begins this Wednesday. The winner who finds the medallion receives $75 if wearing a button and $25 if not wearing one. "This is a weekend that brings the community together for fun, work, food, drinks and much socializing with friends and people we don't get to see except this one weekend a year," said Irene O'Connell. "This a beautiful community event where we see old classmates and friends," Sam Soper said. Don Fuller said, "Many dedicated people do a lot of work to make the festival a success." Joan Fuller added that she sees the Bluegill Festival as a time to not only see friends but former residents. And Carol Jepson cherishes the memories that the festival brought to her as a child. For Greg Hayes, the festival means a 40-hour weekend at the softball tournament. "It's family and fun," said Mary Gibson. Dan Marcon said that he is proud of marching in the Color Guard that leads the annual Sunday parade. "It's personal gratification to be part of this wonderful community," said Sue Svitak. "It's a cohesive community with great camaraderie." Svitak said that the festival brings the people of the community together to celebrate life, friends and happiness. And all the residents enjoy getting together with summer residents and meeting people and friends from the surrounding areas. "I first started going to the Bluegill Festival back in the mid-1980s. I kissed my wife there for the first time," said Jack Serier. "Now we go every year with our kids who each bring a friend up for the weekend." "Birchwood rocks," said David Carrion.
A festival is formed In 1963, two Lions Club members, Jerry Allard and Leonard Carlson, put their heads together and formulated a plan to have an annual celebration in Birchwood to honor the abundant bluegill fish in the area. They presented the plan to the area Lions Club and with the support, began the Birchwood Bluegill Festival that summer. Bluegill buttons were the first way to finance the yearly celebration, and the event has since become a primary fundraiser for the Birchwood Lions Club. In 1964, the first Bluegill queen was selected. Her court consists of a first prince and a second princess. Queens are selected based on leadership, character and service to their community. The Little Miss Birchwood was later added to encourage area youth in Grades 2-4 to get involved and represent the community. Along with Lions Club fundraisers, through the years, area businesses have come on board to support the festival. Music venues were added and the variety of food booths grew. Competitions are a big part of the festival. There are baseball tournaments, horseshoe throwing and bean bag tournaments. The Bluegill Festival run/walk was added 4 years ago. All proceeds from the event go toward the Susan G. Koman 3-Day For the Cure cancer fundraiser. The event begins and ends at Paul's Pizza Den on Hwy. 48. The Kid's half-mile race is $10 with a T-shirt and $5 without. The adult races are $25 with a T-shirt and $20 without. The celebration is always held on the third weekend of July and continues to grow throughout the years. This year, new events have been added to commemorate the 50th year anniversary. A classic car parade begins Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church and meanders around Big Chetac Lake. Minute-to-win-it trials and competition takes place throughout the weekend. And the fish fry was moved to Friday night from Sunday night. A firemen's water fight was added on Sunday afternoon following the parade as a way to cool off and wind down the weekend activities. Firefighters from neighboring communities will battle it out with high pressure hoses. "We invite everyone to come and share in the fun and celebrate life in a small town," said Svitak.
Schedule of events Friday, July 19 4:30-8:30 p.m.-Big Ticket Blues Band. 5-8 p.m.-Fish fry dinner runs until 8 p.m. Cost is $7 with button and $10 without button for adults and $5 for children under age 12. 6-10 p.m.-Sandwiches and sweet treats at the Food Pantry, 15 S. Main St. The food tent and beer garden open at this time, also. 7 p.m.-1 a.m.-Mouse game in beer garden. 8:30-9 p.m.-Bluegill queen candidates and Little Miss Birchwood introductions. 9 p.m.-1 a.m.-Street dance with music by Phoenix. Saturday, July 20 8 a.m.-Senior Center bake sale at Village Hall. Pancake breakfast at American Legion Hall. 8:15 a.m.-Kids fun run. 8:30 a.m.- Fourth annual 5-kilometer run/walk and fun run. Information is at "www.birchwoodrun.com."Craft vendors also open up in the downtown area on Main Street. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.-Sandwiches and sweet treats at the Food Pantry. The food tent and beer gardens also open at 10 a.m. 10 a.m.-noon-Princess camp put on by Bluegill queen candidates on the lawn near the food tent. 10 a.m.-Registration for singles horseshoe tournament that begins an hour later. 11 a.m.-The Birchwood Historical Society has a pie and ice cream social at the Village Hall. 1-5 p.m.-Family Day hosted by the Birchwood Chamber of Commerce. The event includes inflatables, a petting zoo and pony rides. 3:30 and 4 p.m.-Minute-to-win-it practice and tournaments. 4 p.m.-Classic car parade begins. 4:30-8:30 p.m.-Street dance with music provided by the Porch Dogs. 6 p.m.-midnight-Mechanical bull riding in the beer garden. 7 p.m.-1 a.m.-Mouse game in the beer garden. 8:30-9 p.m.-Presentation of the Bluegill queen and her court on Main Street. 9 p.m.-Street dance with music provided by Divided Highway. Tournaments throughout the day.
Sunday, July 21 10 a.m.-Sandwiches and sweet treats at the Food Pantry. The food tent and beer garden reopen. Registration for the doubles horseshoe tournament begins, followed by the tournament an hour later. From 10 a.m.-3 p.m., is a car show by Don's Discount. Noon-A 50-foot banana split fundraiser put on by the Birchwood School. 12:30 p.m.-Flag ceremony at the Village Hall. 12:50 p.m.- Kiddie parade. 1 p.m.-Grand parade on Main Street. A button raffle drawing immediately follows the parade. 2 p.m. following the parade-firemen's water fights. 3-7 p.m.-Big Ticket Blues Band.