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Posted: 09/03/14

Above, Rich Pfeiffer of Bruce Township was this year's grand marshal for the Floral Parade. At right, a pirate ship sets sail down Main Street. Below, Liam, 3, and Brett Haas of Shelby enjoy the carnival's carousel.

(Observer photos by Chris Gray)

Families flood Romeo for 83rd MI Peach Festival

Observer Staff Writer
      The threats of Labor Day weekend rain turned out to be bogus, much to the delight of the thousands of people who streamed into Romeo for the 83rd Annual Michigan Peach Festival.
       Coordinators say the festival, held Aug. 28 through Sept. 1, was yet another successful outing, saying the area's longest-running festival went off without a hitch.
       Gary Schocke, Peach Festival Committee president, dubbed the festival a success, saying the crowd levels were on par with other years at the parades, craft show and carnival.
       "I think for the most part it went well," he said. "We dodged the bullet a couple of times with the rain, especially today (Labor Day)."
       The four-day event offered everything from a 5K run and a carnival to a KidsFest, beer tent, car show and farmer's breakfast. Schocke said the committee will meet next month to talk about the successes and glitches to improve upon the festival for next year.
       The non-profit Romeo Lions Club coordinates a majority of the festival, gaining 75 percent of its revenue from the event.
       Businesses reap the benefits of the festival crowds as well, such as Vera Brandt of Vera's Balloons R Fun.
       "The crowds have been good, people have been spending a little money, so that is always helpful," she said. "I think it's down from other years, but yesterday (Sunday) there were big crowds around."
       The Peach Festival was originally created to celebrate the annual peach harvest. Unfortunately, it was a tough year to be happy about the fuzzy fruit, as the U.S. Agriculture Department reported Michigan's crop dropped by 50 percent when compared to last year.
       Freezing temperatures were to blame for the loss, and many local orchards had to ship in peaches from areas like Grand Rapids.
       Even with the decline, vendors weren't deterred from selling peach pies and other peachy treats. Ruth Baginski, owner of Mike and Ruth's Hill Top Farm, said they couldn't offer as many handmade peach pies this year, but still expected to run out of pies by Monday.
       "I almost didn't do Peach Festival because of the devastation," she said. "We do good, though, we always sell out every year, and I'm honored by that."
       Alison Pearce of Clarkston picked up a peach pie on Friday evening. She said this was her first time at the festival, and decided to make it a girl's night our with her friends.
       "It's better than battling Arts, Beats and Eats, it's more small-town," she said.
       The carnival was popular as always. Katie Parker of Oxford was enjoying the rides with her daughter, Hailey, 5, and some of Hailey's friends. She said she likes the family-friendly atmosphere the festival provides.
       "It's the last little summer getaway before summer ends," she said.
       Bill Graves of Washington Township carried an armful of prizes he and his wife, Maranda, and Shannon Carnell won at the fair. He watched with a smile as they screamed while on a ride.
       "I've been coming here for 42 years," he said. "I like everything -- it's family-oriented, I love the parades, the family comes from out of town and gets together."
       The main event was the two-hour Floral Parade, which saw roughly 120 entries marching down Main Street on Monday afternoon, such as 2014 Peach Queen Kaitlyn Krimmel, marching bands and Shriners.
       Melissa and Craig Campbell of Romeo were with their daughter Emma, 3, at the capstone event, having previously enjoyed KidsFest on Saturday.
       "They have a lot of things for kids, lots of entertainment," Craig said. "It seems like it gets better every year."

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