Group eyes LaHarpe Days rebirth – Festival moved to coincide with alumni reunion

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June 17, 2011 - 12:00 AM

LAHARPE — Angelia Roney isn’t above recruiting at work.
The owner of Angelia’s in downtown LaHarpe pays close attention to the customers who enter her restaurant each day.
If it’s somebody new, she more often than not will mention the upcoming LaHarpe Days celebration next weekend.
The conversation serves two purposes.
She obviously wants the word out about the upcoming festival to amp up attendance.
But just as importantly, she’s looking for help.
“We can always use more volunteers,” Roney said.
Roney and Darrell Goodner, co-owners of Angelia’s, are the driving forces behind the 2011 LaHarpe Days celebration. They’ve already recruited a group of eight or so volunteers to help man the June 25 celebration.
In the eight months since they joined the LaHarpe Days Committee, the pair have taken strides to provide for a renaissance of sorts.
The biggest change was moving the celebration’s date from late August to the last weekend in June to coincide with the annual LaHarpe High School alumni reunion.
“We figured it would be a great opportunity to get people from out of town to see what fun there is to do in LaHarpe,” Roney said.
“And not having it in August means they have to worry less about heat,” interjected Leonard DeLaughder, another committee member. “There were times it was brutally hot.”
But another weather phenomenon — rain — almost proved to be the festival’s downfall in 2008.
Rainy forecasts prompted former organizers to postpone the celebration by mid-morning, although the weather cleared shortly thereafter with pleasant weather the rest of the day.
But the damage had been done. Attendance plummeted the following two years.
“We’ve heard lots of comments about getting rained out,” Roney said, adding that the 2011 festival will take place regardless of the weather.
Roney, Goodner and Marsha DeLaughder anticipated such a response, and have been spreading the word.
Marsha DeLaughder began contacting arts and crafts vendors as early as last October at the Iola Farm-City Days celebration and Fort Scott’s Good Ole Days.
“We wanted to let people know what we had planned,” DeLaughder said.

THE CELEBRATION features fun and games that should appeal to folks of all ages.
Arts and crafts and food vendors will set up shop that morning, with the 11 a.m. parade to follow, leading festival-goers from Main Street to the LaHarpe City Park, where the balance of the activities take place.
A car and truck show, organized by Iolan Richard Gilliland, and motorcycle show sponsored by Ray’s Metal Depot run through the early afternoon, while a number of kids games, including inflatable obstacle courses and the like will be set up. Those are sponsored by Diebolt Lumber and Supply.
“We’re going to have things such as a jump rope contest, softball throw, things like that,” Roney said.
The Iola Lions Club will provide free eye exams at another booth, and the Allen County Community Emergency Response Team will have information about its program. A helicopter will be at the park from about 1 to 2.
As those events start winding down, the music should start to stir things back up.
Iola DJ Scott Stewart will provide the music from 2:30 to midnight at the park.
A pony pull, sponsored by Farmers Insurance, gets under way at 7.
The day wraps up with a street dance from 9 to midnight.
“And we’re still looking to add activities,” Roney said. “If anybody has ideas, we’d love to hear them.
“We’re not sure what kind of turnout we’re going to get,” she continued. “But hopefully word starts to spread, and we can figure out the things we did well, and things we need to do better so we can improve it next year.”

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