It just can’t.
Hearing there will be no Lakefest this year is like losing a friend.
For as long as I can remember, Lakefest has been a big part of my life.
As a child, I had the honor of serving as a "waterboy" for the Lakefest Mini-Marathon.
I would stand at the side of the road and feel the "swoosh" as runners would snatch a cup of cold water from my waiting hand.
(There’s an art to handing out water, you know. You just can’t "hand" a cup of water to a runner-you have to learn the proper "release" so you don’t spill the water or slow the runner down.)
As a young adult, a band I was in (Anybody remember "Romper Ruum?") played in front of 6,000 people during Lakefest.
Not only did I survive "The Great Spandex Pants Incident," but that was the first (and probably only) time I ever signed an autograph for someone.
As a newsman, I also survived photographing baby shows, pageants, the occasional rambunctious reptile or dangerous dog during the pet show, and had the opportunity to meet several, famous musicians who performed at Lakefest over the past, few years.
Owning and living in a building on the square was a great advantage during Lakefest because it was a convenient place to cool off, use the bathroom-or the best reason-scale the roof to watch fireworks.
My friends and I would lay on the roof looking skyward, feel the building shake under the loud "booms" and cheer as debris from the fireworks literally rained down upon us.
One year, my wife and I sat hand-in-hand as the fireworks were perfectly framed in our bedroom window.
Those are great memories.
But I hate to think Lakefest, itself, may be a memory.
The announcement earlier this week that Lakefest would be canceled has been met with much speculation.
I’m a little relieved I am no longer on the city council because I wouldn’t be to answer the question so many people are asking…"WHY?!"
Honestly-I just don’t think there’s a good answer.
If someone says it’s because of the new, Justice Center project, most people would point out there is actually no construction going on at the moment.
If someone says Lakefest is canceled because of the economy, then the "powers that be" will be accused of not being fiscally-responsible.
Does the city have to provide a free, public festival every year?
No, but I think an argument can certainly be made Lakefest has brought thousands of people into Jamestown and Russell County for the past 40 years.
I think one of the big issues at hand is "Who knew what, and when did they know it?"
In other words, "When was it decided there would be no Lakefest this year?"
It’s always been common knowledge it takes an entire year to prepare for Lakefest.
As soon as one is finished, people start working on the next one right away.
So, if you start thinking about, when did someone notify vendors there wouldn’t be a Lakefest this year?
Was entertainment and fireworks scheduled? And if they were, when were they canceled?
I’ve been hearing the buzz about Lakefest being canceled for weeks-well more like months, but I always thought, "No way."
I mean, things can always be scaled back, but pageants can be money-makers, and people just dog-gone expect to fill the square up on the last night of Lakefest for fireworks and music-no matter what singer or band is performing.
It’s just a yearly rite of passage.
It’s a tradition.
Lakefest is part of the moral fiber of our community.
Yeah, some of you may complain and say, "Ah, I ain’t goin’ out there and fight that crowd," but guess who always shows up with a lawn chair?
Heck, we love Lakefest.
When you love something, you don’t want to lose it.
And since this "announcement" is coming so late in the game, what’s going to happen to those people who assume there will be a Lakefest as usual?
People can be fickle, and if you skip Lakefest even just one year, chances are people will never come back again.
As far as tourism, the cancellation of Lakefest could be considered a disaster.
People come here for our small-town charm and hospitality, and they enjoy the fact Lakefest, Lake Cumberland, Jamestown, Russell County has not gotten "too big for its britches."
Without Lakefest this year, I feel people will go, "Oh well, we’ll find someplace else to go."
I also hate to see Lakefest canceled after the hard work and dedication that’s been put into it.
In the recent past, we’ve lost two, very important pillars of Lakefest.
The late Mae Hoover (and her public service-oriented family) was not only instrumental in getting Lakefest started, but seeing that it continued to grow year-after-year.
I remember talking to her near the end of long, hot day at Lakefest.
Mrs. Hoover had been at Lakefest many, many hours, and I asked her if she was tired.
She smiled, put her hand on my shoulder, and said, "Wade, honey, I am exhausted."
"But you see that little boy over there," she said-pointing to a youngster who was smiling, clapping, and dancing around. "That makes it all worthwhile to see him having such a good time."
Late, local businessman Mike Hill oversaw the nationally-known Lakefest Mini-Marathon.
One year, after the marathon, I saw Mr. Hill (who was always involved in all aspects of the race), loading up chairs, tables, and barriers used during the event.
"This race sure looks like a lot of work," I told him.
He stopped what he was doing, looked around, and said, "Yes sir, it sure is a lot of work."
"But you know what?" he said, as his face brightened, "Through this race, we’ve made friends from all over the United States, and heck, there’s people who’d never heard of Jamestown or Lake Cumberland until they read about Lakefest and the race in running magazines.
"Now, there’s people who plan their vacations around Lakefest, and even some people who’ve bought homes here."
One has to admire the unbroken spirit of Dr. James E. Monin, who pledges to still have his Antique Car Show this year.
Through his stellar contacts and diligent efforts, Dr. Monin not only amasses an amazing array of vintage automobiles, but also brings in a least one "ringer"-a rare auto which would make the Smithsonian drool.
Automobiles only speculated upon by historians are likely to be seen rolling through Jamestown.
So, no Lakefest, huh?
Hey, wait a minute…
We are RUSSELL COUNTY, baby!
We gots the mad skills to make things happen.
Let’s not give up on things just yet.
I was thinking about all of this the other day, and tried to determine what the necessary "elements" of Lakefest are.
OK, you need people….but there’s got to be a reason for people to show up, so, what do they show up for?
Yeah. OK, but you’ve got to have a location for music and people.
Ah…how about JAMESTOWN CITY PARK? (Which is an idea I’ve heard mentioned before.)
I actually drove over there, and hmmm, guess what? Decent parking, playgrounds for the kiddos, volleyball court, (cool) and even a sheltered area in case it rains.
Somebody could make a mint on concessions, or I bet if someone works the phones pretty hard, they could get some vendors to come out and set up.
(All I need is a funnel cake stand and I’m ready to get it on like Donkey Kong.)
Looking around, I noticed there are restaurants, and convenience stores within walking distance, too, so that could help out the local economy.
Businesses which closed during Lakefest could now be open, and if there IS a special event occurring nearby during the holiday weekend, it should present potential for them.
I know for a fact there are some EXCELLENT local bands who people need to hear them if they haven’t already.
If a person could get Gravel Switch and Wolfe Creek to play, well, shoot, that’d draw a pretty big crowd right there.
Could we possibly entice Dave Rock to throw down a few of his tasty tunes for us?
Oooooooooh, yeah, we got us a full-blown LAKESTOCK, Jamestown Jam, or whatever you want call it.
Actually, you could start around noon on a Saturday, and go until maybe midnight.
Let’s give some of these younger bands and talented musicians around here a chance, too.
Almost every church has a praise band, so there’s plenty of performers right there.
If the city’s not going to use that stage they always had at Lakefest, it’d be awful nice if they could bring it over to the park.
Most of the musicians I know are pretty cool, and I think they would help out with PA equipment, lights, and whatever is needed to put on a good show. (I’ve seen people set up and play in the middle of a cow pasture, so anything is possible.)
It’s a fairly contained area-which should make it easy for police to patrol.
And perhaps someone could put some "BANG" into this impromptu salvaging of Lakefest by donating fireworks? (I still have some M-80s, but I’m saving them for a special occasion.)
Seriously-don’t you think maybe we can get with the city, or any other, interested entities, and we can ALL work together to get something going?
No, we don’t have a lot of time, but we sure do have some creative and inventive people around here, and it’s their time to shine.
You must remember this-Lakefest was our own, local way of celebrating our country’s independence.
This is a "birthday" we must never forget.
In the words of the great philosopher, Wayne Campbell…"PARTY ON!!!"