Heritage Days Chairman Joe Burgess hopes that the 2012 Heritage Days will be even more fun for even more ages this year.
"We really tried this year to make sure we had activities to cover all age groups," Burgess says.
Youth activities this year have been expanded and consolidated into the "Kid Fun Zone," located near the Huntington County Courthouse. The zone will include a free petting zoo, free pony rides and bouncy houses and other activities sponsored by local organizations.
Beacon Credit Union will also host a Kiddie Tractor Pull.
"We're really excited about that kids' area," Burgess says.
Burgess also highlighted the new water wars activity that will be located just outside of the Kid Fun Zone. Participants will have the opportunity to soak and splash each other with what Burgess described as "catapult-esque" devices.
"It's kind of like a slingshot, only on a major scale," he says.
Heritage Days will also court the teenage population this year with the first-ever Huntington Video Game Challenge, hosted by Bailey's Coffee LLC and TCB Games.
Heritage Days attendees should also make sure to attend the Balloon Fest, Burgesss says, which will be held Friday, June 22, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 23, at 6:30 a.m. and from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, June 24, at 6:30 a.m., all times weather permitting. The fest will feature a grounded and inflated retired hot air balloon for kids to explore and a Saturday night display of giant, glowing aerostats-similar to tethered blimps.
Burgess, who is finishing up his second year as Heritage Days chairman, says that the planning this year went smoothly and that his first year chairing the event prepared him to handle any obstacles this year.
"It's actually come together very nicely," he says about the planning that started in September 2011. "We've had some new additions to the committee and some ideas we were able to incorporate."
Burgess mentioned that the committee is already exploring some new ideas and options for the 2013 Heritage Days.
The lineup for Heritage Days this year includes a handful of new events to enjoy, including the tournament for local gamers, a poker run and burger cook-off at Malta Burgers and a Sunday morning fly-in/drive-in breakfast at the Huntington Municipal Airport.
Here are details on some of this year's new events:
• The Huntington Video Game Challenge, which will take place on Saturday, June 23, after the parade from noon to 7 p.m., is the brainchild of Bobby Bailey of Bailey's Coffee LLC and Todd Nightenhelser of TCB Games.
Nightenhelser says that he noticed a lack of youth participation in Heritage Days as the stream of young customers to his downtown shop dwindled during the festival. When he asked why they weren't interested in the festivities, he realized that Heritage Days events aimed at the demographic of his customers were slim to none.
It was Bailey, however, who presented the idea of a video game tournament to the chamber of commerce. When Nightenhelser heard Bailey's idea, he approached him with his own proposition-to co-sponsor the event.
"I told him, ‘This is what I do,'" Nightenhelser says. He took over the details of the gaming and Bailey focused on promotions and sponsorships, pulling in local businesses to contribute to prize packages, including three give-aways from Aaron's of a TV, an Xbox 360 system and a Blu-Ray player.
"It's a rare opportunity for businesses in the community to participate in a community-wide cooperative and reach a very specific niche of customers," Nightenhelser says.
The Video Game Challenge will feature a main event (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3), team event (Battlefield 2) and side events and activities. There will be entry fees for the competitions. The winner of the main event will receive a paid weekend in Chicago to compete in the Major League Gaming qualifying events well as a package of items from local businesses.
The challenge will be charity-focused as the team event will be a four-player play-for-charity competition of "Battlefield 2." Winners will be able to donate the entry fees to the charity of their choice. Food vendors will also be on hand with proceeds going to benefit charities.
Nightenhelser hopes that the event will increase crowd numbers and diversity at Heritage Days.
"The downtown will get a lot of people who wouldn't really go at all," he says.
The Video Game Challenge will be located in the TCB Games and former Sewing Basket storefronts and an adjoining tent.
• Local ministry Malta House will host its debut Heritage Days event, the to-be-annual Poker Run, followed by a Malta Burger- sponsored burger cook-off.
Riders in the Poker Run can look forward to a burger buffet held after the run, which will start from the Riverfront Plaza parking lot at 2:30 p.m. and end up at Malta Burgers at 6 p.m. The buffet cost will be included in the registration fee and the menu will feature burgers, baked beans, chips and bottled water.
Burger cook-off competitors will compete for a chance to be on the Malta Burgers menu for the upcoming year. Five judges will choose the winner including Megan Reust of Channel 15, Bob Johnston of Channel 21 and the winner of the Poker Run.
Patties and buns will be provided by Malta Burgers, and participants must bring their own grills, utensils and additional ingredients. Set up will start at 5 p.m. at Malta Burgers and must conclude by 6 p.m. before the Poker Run riders return. Completed burgers must be to the judges by 7 p.m.
For more details or to register for the run, call 519-0168 or 224-9243, or visit on Facebook or www.maltaministry.org. For more information about the burger cook-off, or to register, contact Malta Burger at 504-2727. All proceeds will benefit Malta House.
• When the Huntington Lions wanted to start an annual event on Heritage Days, they decided to pair up with the Huntington Municipal Airport and bring back the fly-in breakfast.
Sunday morning, June 24, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., a breakfast will be hosted at the airport by the Lions for anyone who wants to drive or fly in.
A fly-in is an event for anyone who owns an aircraft, with private pilots making treks to the designated location for a traditional breakfast or lunch. Steve Gray at the airport says that he expects visitors to come from as much as 200 miles away for the breakfast.
"It's just a gathering of enthusiasts," he says.
Fliers have been sent to all Indiana airports advertising the breakfast in addition to local promotions.
In addition to the Lions' breakfast, the airport will also host a free balsa wood flier competition for youth 8 to 11 years old. Contestants will construct their own fliers provided by the airport, and prizes will be airplane rides.
A parking donation will be requested at the airport.
Complete caption: Christian Veach (left) is cheered on by Sue Rumple of Beacon Credit Union during the Heritage Days Kiddie Tractor Pull last year in downtown Huntington. This year’s pull will take place Saturday, June 23, in downtown Huntington 30 minutes after the end of the Heritage Days Parade.