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Posted: 09/04/13

Above, from left, Riley Schlaf, 6, Katie McKiernan, 7, and Emily Schlaf, 10, of Washington Township dance as floats pass by during the Floral Parade. Below top, 2013 Mr. Peachy King Joseph Zaiglin and Lil' Peach Blossom Liliana Caruso wave during the Floral Parade. Below bottom, 2013 Floral Parade grand marshal, Sue Kane.

(Observer photos by Chris Gray)

82nd Peach Fest crowds
strong despite rain

Observer Staff Writer
      Jim and Linda Box of Romeo have attended the Michigan Peach Festival for about 30 years, so they knew they had to snag a spot on Main Street early for the parades.
       "We always try to make it every year," Jim said. "It seems like every year it gets better."
       They and thousands of others visited the Romeo area for the 82nd Peach Festival, though rainy spots over the Labor Day weekend may have kept some people from attending.
       Regardless of the wet weather, Linda said she thought the festival was good this year, adding it's a boost for Romeo merchants and an event everyone can enjoy.
       "It's nice, we enjoy it, just being out and seeing the neighbors and friends," she said. "It's a nice gathering."
       Gary Schocke, Peach Festival Committee president, said the 82nd festival did see strong crowds for the majority of the weekend, though rain on Friday and Sunday caused attendance to dip.
       "For the most part it's been good," he said. "We would've liked nicer weather, but you've got to take what you can get."
       The festival's success could be measured through its newest addition, a Farmer's Breakfast on Sept. 1. Schocke said more than 1,000 meals were served, coming close to the numbers reached during the former fly-in breakfast the event replaced.
       "It was a very good success," he said.
       Crowds gathered at the carnival at the Lions Field or at various crafts shows, while people ducked into refreshment tents or buildings when the weather was too wet or humid. The rain didn't keep the car owners away, with Schocke saying more than 200 vehicles drove in for the annual Festival of Cars.
       Parades remained one of the biggest attractions. The children's parade saw superheroes and villains duking it out on floats while the Mummer's Parade included Elvis impersonators and the Tillson Street chickens.
       The Floral Parade on Monday was the largest in both crowds and entries, featuring the 2013 Peach Queen, grand marshal, Shriners and local businesses, politicians and service organizations for a two-hour parade. Temperatures cooled down and the sun shined on a Main Street packed with parade watchers munching on pizza, peach goodies and candy tossed from floats.
       "It cooled off, and I think overall we had a good festival," Schocke said.
       Businesses had similar stories to tell about their foot traffic. Jess Hall, owner of Reology on W St. Clair, said her upcycling store experienced increased business and exposure, but not as much as her first Peach Festival last year.
       "I think that's just due to the weather," she said. "It's hard to judge, really."
       Two Romeo Girls was at its new location on N Main Street for the festival. Debbie Wingert, co-owner of the vintage store, said business was slow but gradually picked up.
       "We've done quite well," she said. "It's just fun to have new people come in and meet new people, that is one of the perks of being in business."
       Temporary tents sold everything from nachos and hot dogs to peaches and peach-based food like salsa and cider. William Kayuk of Orion is one of the many who makes the trek to the festival each year, saying he likes the homemade foods and the chance to visit with friends.
       "I love it, I come get my peach pie," he said.
       Katie Lackowski of Bruce Township was on Main Street with her daughter enjoying the festival. She said her family participates in the parades and looks forward to the festival each year.
       "We love it, our kids go to the carnival, they just come up here and meet their friends and go play," she said. "Our family all meets up here and we kind of make a whole day of barbecuing and parading."
       Schocke said the festival committee will begin meeting in February to determine ways to boost the 83rd annual festival.
       "We'll discuss a lot of things, maybe change a few things, we always talk about that every year," he said. "We'll try to make it bigger and better next year."
       The festival has been held since 1931, with a break during World War II causing the only interruption.

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Retrieved 7/30/2015 at 4:08:13 AM.
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