Spring Fest brings tradition, community
CLEVELAND — As a few raindrops began to fall Saturday afternoon, Sonja Nicolosi watched her daughter spin in a cup-shaped amusement ride.
The Nicolosis didn’t want to ruin an annual tradition for rain.
“I hope they continue it,” Nicolosi said. “We look forward to it every year.”
Cleveland’s 10th annual Spring Fest took a hit from Saturday’s dreary weather on a year when city officials are eyeing the festival’s attendance as budget cuts loom.
But many in attendance were upbeat about the possibility of drawing a crowd later in the day. Others said they came because of the tradition and community connection.
“Seeing friends from our neighborhood, our churches, our community,” Nicolosi said. “It makes for great memories.”
Cleveland Councilwoman and Spring Fest advocate Frankie Adkins-Fleming said race weekend also factored into the attendance.
“With the weather and our competition, I think we’ve had a good turnout,” she said.
The festival was again held at town park on Clement Street from noon to 9:15 p.m.
Adults browsed through the food and craft vendors that lined the fair-like arena Saturday. Young festival goers rode the handful of amusement twirlers and tossers placed in the middle of the park
About 3 p.m. a few dozen spectators crowded around the west end of the park where retired military veterans held a flag retirement ceremony.
“Let these faded flags of our country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and their places be taken by bright new flags of the same size and kind, and let no grave of a soldier, sailor, Marine or airman be unhonored and unmarked,” a stoic commander read to the crowd.
The flags, which had been folded, were then discarded in a fiery barrel. Some residents assisted Boy Scouts in destroying the honored material.
Rebecca Martin, of Statesville, said she and her daughter Janice went to Spring Fest to “get out of the house.”
“I’ve driven through Cleveland before and we just wanted to get away from the usual on a Saturday,” she said.
Several vendors said they had seen low sales numbers through the first half of the day.
But hope remained for an evening push.
“The event is good and we’re really excited about it,” Joann Robinson said.
Robinson was selling jewelry and other ornamental decorations at the festival Saturday with her husband J.R. and daughter Denise Grant of Cleveland.
“I think it’s going to turn around,” she said.
Not every vendor was optimistic though.
“It’s my first,” Anita McCall said of Spring Fest. “It’ll probably be my last year, too.”
McCall had hundreds of purses crowded around her tent. She was prepared to move them under if the rain picked up.
“Out of 500 purses to sale, we’ve sold one,” she said.
Still, several spectators said the springtime jubilee brings the community together and should be spared from budget cuts.
“I hope this is something we can continue, but like I said, we’d understand if we can’t,” Adkins-Fleming said. “You’ve got to have police. You’ve got to have firemen.”
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.