SWANTON — Swanton residents shared possibilities, hopes and concerns for the resurrection of the Swanton Summer Festival at a community forum on Wednesday night.
The summer festival began in 1959 and ended in 2003. The 25th festival, in 1984, drew more than 20,000 people.
Swanton Arts Council (SAC) President Scott Rheaume and Vice President Nicole Gadouas moderated Wednesday night’s forum. Rheaume said he was “just here to get the ball rolling,” but the ball rolled on its own as if down a hill the moment the floor opened to discussion.
Jessica Pelkey, who owns Salon Elixir, said she has frequently discussed the possibility of resurrecting the festival with her clients. “A lot of people in the community are saying they want it back,” she said. “There’s a lot of special memories that live there.”
The people assembled at Wednesday night’s forum shared memories of their own. An elderly woman sitting in the front row remembered, “You didn’t see anybody ever in town until [the festival] came. It was a dead town. I went there every night for the music.”
“It used to be a huge point in pride in the town,” Judy Paxman, the executive director of the Swanton Arts Council, remembered. “When you said you were from Swanton, people used to say, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, I love the festival.’”
Rheaume asked those assembled why the festival was important. One said pride. Another said tradition. Still another said the festival “gave the opportunity to show what Swanton can offer,” a combination of Native American, religious and industrial history as well as rides, games and “10 o’clock fistfights.”
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