Parkersburg Homecoming drops Sunday from schedule

For the first time in 35 years, the Parkersburg Homecoming Festival in August will be held on only two days, on Friday and Saturday. Sunday has been dropped from the schedule, officials said. This photo is from the Friday opening night in 2013. (File Photo)

PARKERSBURG — The Parkersburg Homecoming Festival will drop to two days this year, officials said Monday, citing the sparse attendance on Sunday afternoon.

“Homecoming this year will only be on Friday and Saturday,” said Sherry Valentine, homecoming president. The dates are Aug. 18-19.

This year is the 35th anniversary of the Parkersburg Homecoming, a festival highlighted by the Saturday night fireworks show and the Sunday night concert, which has featured among the biggest names in country and western music and rock and roll, including the Dixie Chicks, George Jones, Grand Funk Railroad, America, Sawyer Brown, T. Graham Brown, Charlie Daniels, Eddie Rabbitt, Kathy Mattea, Brad Paisley and Kelly Pickler.

Valentine said attendance on Sunday has been declining.

Sunday night concerts have been well attended and start at 8 p.m., but during the day was when attendance at the festival was sparce. Among the Sunday events at last year’s Homecoming was the chess tournament, a kids’ fishing derby at City Park and a model railroad club open house.

Attendance has been impacted by Wood County Schools starting classes earlier in the summer, said both Valentine and Chuck Lipps, entertainment chairman for the Homecoming.

“We’ve run into a problem the last few years of school being in session on the Monday, the day after the Sunday Homecoming, and our attendance has been way down, especially during the daytime on Sundays,” Lipps said. “Concessions people aren’t making any money and then (they’re) just coming for the Sunday night concert and leaving.

“So we feel like we might be able to put on a more cost-effective two-day festival anyway, and save everybody some money, and at the same time maybe upgrade the quality of the entertainment,” he said.

The schedule for the two-day Homecoming has yet to be finalized, Valentine said.

“The funds that we would normally spend on that third day we can spend on the two-day event,” Valentine said.

Major events on Saturday are the parade, a Saturday night concert and the fireworks display. The annual Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon, which includes the 2-mile race and walk, is held on Saturday morning prior to the parade.

The Homecoming decision doesn’t impact the race, according to Art Smith, race logistical director. The Half Marathon is among the largest single-day events in the Mid-Ohio Valley, and the popular kids races are held Sunday morning at the Parkersburg High School Stadium Field.

“We encourage families that would have taken part in the Sunday Homecoming festivities to bring their kids under 11 to the youth races,” Smith said.

Registration begins at 11:30 a.m. and racing begins at 1 p.m.

George Kellenberger, the retired executive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Chamber of Commerce, ran the Parkersburg Homecoming for 25 years. He was disappointed with the news that the festival would drop Sunday and go to two days.

“Personally, I think that’s a shame,” Kellenberger said.

Besides cutting how long people from out of the area would remain in Parkersburg, the festival is a showcase for the region, he said. However, economic and financial troubles and difficulty finding sponsors are not unique here, according to Kellenberger.

“Money is tight everywhere,” he said.

Parkersburg Mayor Tom Joyce mentioned the possibility of a reduced Homecoming schedule during last week’s municipal budget hearings. Councilwoman Sharon Kuhl had questioned the $10,000 contribution the city budgeted for the festival, noting city police, sanitation and public works employees provide services for the event that Finance Director Eric Jiles said are worth about $20,500.

Joyce said a shorter festival would mean less in-kind contributions.

Kuhl said she thought the $10,000 contribution should be reconsidered in light of the in-kind contributions and the fact that the Homecoming application for funding was submitted after the initial deadline.

Jiles said organizations are often given a courtesy reminder call with a hard deadline if they haven’t submitted their application.

“I certainly understand, during tight budgetary times, council looking at all options,” Joyce said. “I do think that there is a benefit to having the Homecoming in Parkersburg.”