Huntington ready for 50th anniversary Heritage Days to steam into city

Members of The Huntington County Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Days Steering Committee and representatives from, the 2013 Heritage Days sponsor, gather on Thursday, June 6.
Members of The Huntington County Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Days Steering Committee and representatives from, the 2013 Heritage Days sponsor, gather on Thursday, June 6. Photo by Lauren M. Wilson.

"There's literally a ton of activities," says Joe Burgess.

Burgess should know.
He's chairman of the Heritage Days steering committee, which opens Wednesday, June 19, in Huntington.

The festival continues through June 23.

"The big thing this year is it's our 50th anniversary of the Heritage Days parade. So, we are excited about that," says Burgess.

"It is a tribute to the whole community."

Burgess has been busy planning this year's events since October 2012.

"The month after Heritage Days we have a wrap-up meeting to cover that year's Heritage Days and we go over the good, the bad and the ugly," he says.

"We usually take a couple month hiatus from there and we meet together in October, and we have a brainstorming sessions. We address any of the bad stuff and brainstorm new ideas for next year's Heritage Days.

"Then we decide that five, six, 10 of them are worth exploring. For example, we want to keep trying to add activities into the kid's activity area that are free."

This year, festival-goers will see an expanded Fun Zone for children's activities on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. in downtown Huntington.

"The kids' activity area just continues to expand. We have a lot of great groups that are helping out with that," says Burgess.

A kids' tractor pull, train rides, bouncy house, pony rides and a petting zoo will be found in the zone, and Burgess says there's a new addition - reptiles.

The Mobile Reptile Zoo is a 55-foot-long trailer filled with reptiles. It will be on hand at the Fun Zone.

"We saw a few years ago that we needed to really emphasize the little kids and not stress mom and dad's pocket book too much. So, there are going to be tons of activities after the parade in downtown for the kids to be able to come down and enjoy," Burgess says.

All activities in the Fun Zone are free and open to the public.

Also downtown on Saturday, Burgess says, "We are going to have approximately up to 200 motorcycles that are going to be coming into downtown and going to Legends (Sports Bar) at about 12:30 or 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.

"It's a stop on an overall bike ride so they're going to be there for a short period of time and then go back out of town.

"That should make some interesting noise in downtown - that many bikes moving in."

Another new event is a three-on-three basketball tournament.

Burgess says the three-on-three tournament is raising money for the basketball programs at the high school.

"It's a great way to get out and enjoy a Saturday afternoon playing basketball in downtown."

To kick things off on Saturday morning, Burgess says a B17 bomber will perform a fly over at 10 a.m., at the start of the Heritage Days Parade.

"For the last couple years we have wanted to have a flyover, but this year, with Steve Kimmel's help and the airport and a lot of people in the community, we have the opportunity to get a B17 bomber, and a nice start to the parade," he notes.

Other new activities will take place on Saturday night, beginning at 6 p.m. at Huntington North High School with the Hot Air Balloon Festival.

The festival will add several new activities to the Heritage Days roster, including a bed race and a cruise-in.

The bed race will begin at 7:30 p.m. in front of the school. It is an elimination style race, and riders will wear pajamas.

The cruise-in is an open event.

"We don't really care what kind of car you have - bring your classic car or your current car," Burgess says.

To conclude the balloon festival, as in previous years, there will be a balloon glow.

"Everybody's got to get out and see it; it's phenomenal," says Burgess. "Between the lights and the music it's a pretty spectacular event."

He invites everyone to come out and bring lawn chairs and blankets.

"There will be food and plenty of bathrooms," he says. "We make sure everyone is taken care of as much as possible everywhere."

On Sunday, Burgess says Heritage Days will wrap up with "the bow on top of the present," JeFFFest.

JeFFest will run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in downtown Huntington and offer food, music and art to attendees.

"One of the reasons Heritage Days has survived for so long and will continue to survive is because we have so many great community groups that support it," he notes.

"Through the ups and downs, no matter what, the community has always supported Heritage Days and come out in great attendance to it."

He says he truly loves Heritage Days and the steering committee he leads.

"They just really get into the Heritage Day theme of we are our past, our present, and our future, and that's our heritage, and we are all responsible for it."

View complete Heritage Days Schedule of activities...

Complete caption: Members of The Huntington County Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Days Steering Committee and representatives from, the 2013 Heritage Days sponsor, gather on Thursday, June 6. They are (back row, from left) steering committee members Michelle Crone, Barbara Rupley, Paula Kimmel, Craig Lee and Joe Burgess; and Brien Blackburn, vice president of sales and marketing of; (middle row, from left) Jo Ann Burnau, Huntington County Chamber of Commerce administrative assistant; steering committee members Nancy Martin, Ashley Allen, Phyllis Renz, Judy Lee holding grandchild Emmalee Otto, and Alley Green, also Lee’s grandchild; Liz McClain, vice president of administration at; Gene Fleck, president of; and Steve Kimmel, executive director of the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce; and (front row, from left) Ben Green and Cady Green, Lee’s grandchildren.