Harry Fest 21...an amazing new chapter
What a difference a year makes. Actually, a year and four months to be exact.
Harry Fest 21 held at The Blackhawk Stagecoach Barn on September 21st was a massive success on several fronts. And although the final numbers are not yet in, it's apparent the monitory results of our efforts will be greater than the last two years.
From 5:00 PM to the wee hours of the morning, hundreds of people had a great time eating, drinking, dancing, listening to great music, sitting by the open fire, sharing laughter, embraces, and just flat out having fun. The essence of "Eat, Drink, and be Harry."
Where to begin...
This was the first year we had a self serve, all you can eat backyard BBQ, and it was a hit. Thanks to giving businesses like Papa's Italian Sausage, Harding's of Plainwell, Sobie Meats, The Upper Crust, and the phenomenal baking of Trish Winter, the food was incredible and in abundance. Brats, sausage, chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, pasta salad, cookies, brownies...you get the idea.
Eight bands that all donated their time and talent to our cause, and what a show they put on. Tanner Thompson, Vega, Billy Sloan, Scrapyard, Diver, and the Harry Stout All Stars rocked the house. And making the evening extra special were two very special guests.
All the way from Florida with their own fan base was Bullet Theory, and what a show they put on. Not only did they blow everyone away with their musicianship, they also provided the backline for all bands and bass player extraordinaire "Squeegie" filled in on bass for the all stars. Dani Jamerson and her band also thrilled the crowd with an amazing set of foot stomping joy, and the band and their family provided the PA System for all bands and was mixed by long time Harry Fest contributor Darrell Minor.
Hundreds of donated items generated sterling revenues that will go directly to our causes. Sports memorabilia, restaurant gift cards, gift baskets, fine wine...even a picnic table were scooped up by event goers at fabulous prices. The auction took place under the big tent provided by our friends at United Rental, who also donated everything we needed to make the food service a reality.
Four brave men took on the hot dog eating contest, and one emerged as the winner. Congratulations Eric Adams...you are a true champion. There were several who entered the first annual dance off that was ultimately won by Harry's sister, Allie. The crowd voted unanimously for the sultry moves of the gyrating ginger. Ten contestants took part in the first annual frozen tee shirt competition which was without question one of the most entertaining activities of the fest.
Three awards were also presented, including Amanda Tiseo who fittingly was chosen for The Amy Winter Memorial Award. This award is honor of one of our dear friends and Harry Fest contributors, Amy Winter, and given to a person that has demonstrated remarkable courage and grace during a very challenging life event. Amanda is the daughter of Andy and Amy Winter, and we couldn't be more thrilled of her triumph.
The Mike Mollitor Volunteer Awards are for those who provide exceptional effort in making Harry Fest a success. Mike, who passed on several years ago was the example of what selfless giving is all about. This year, the board of directors selected our new hosts, The Blackhawk Stagecoach Barn, who made the transition to a new venue effortless and enjoyable. The board also recognized "Bullet Theory" for all things mentioned earlier. What great group of guys and wives.
The Sky Lantern Launch.
Another first, another success. Dozens of glowing lanterns were released into the evening sky creating an inspiring and touching tribute to those that have passed on. For a donation, event goers could buy a lantern and write the names and any message they wanted to share on it. At 9:00 PM the lanterns were lit and released, including one that found its way into a nearby tree. Could it have been Harry getting in another prank? Soon after all the lanterns had drifted away, a dove flew into the area where loved one had gathered. Pretty amazing indeed.
There are so many people to thank and recognize for what took place this past weekend, but none more vital than Board President Matt Adams. Matt's tireless effort, steady and calm direction, and devotion to Harry's Foundation is nothing shy of inspiring. It was Matt and his wife Deb that introduced the idea of moving Harry Fest to an indoor venue and making it simpler. That idea has literally saved the event and made the lives of all those that work it much better. Harry was lucky to have you as a coach Matt, and the foundation is lucky to have you as their leader.
The entire Board of Directors who spent hours and hours planning, running, collecting items, following up, and ultimately executing a phenomenal event, are the driving force behind the success. Chris and MaDonna Glatz, Andy Winter, Todd Overhuel, Nate Cremeans, Russ Bronson, Rich Fargo, Meryl Stout, Allie Hire, Annie Stout, Kevin Smith, and Jeff Hudson who was instrumental in obtaining our new home.
Our major sponsors are also the best...every year stepping up to the plate to make what we do possible. Schupan and Sons, Educators Management Group, Arcadia Brewing, Chemical Bank, The Courthouse Athletic Center, United Rental, The Blackhawk, and our presenting sponsor, Cool 101.
Of course, all the businesses that contributed to our silent auction and all the great volunteers who spent the majority of their day helping in a variety of ways...food service, grilling, auction helpers, ticket takers, stage hands...we can't thank you enough.
And last but not least, everyone that attended. We hope you had as much fun as we did and we hope you come back next year and bring friends!
Soon we will know how much we can give Wes Leonard's Heart Team to help their effort in providing local schools with Automated Electronic Defibrillators, First Day Shoes who provides footwear to children in need, and scholarships for Plainwell and Otsego students.
But there is no waiting to find out how a 12-year old boy could so positively impact the lives of so many. Our causes and the children they benefit will all be making a difference, but if you were there Saturday, you realize that Harry Fest has a much broader reach. Harry got life. He knew life wasn't supposed to be complicated. He knew a kind word and a helping hand at any given moment could make a big difference in people's lives. He knew how fortunate he was to have the things he had, and the love of his family and friends. He knew how special it was to spend quality time, share a meal, a laugh, and a hug with people.
I shared a story with my sister and brother in law on Sunday that reflects the nature of what I am telling you about.
When Harry was 11, he and I were taking the train from Kalamazoo to Chicago to watch the Cubs play. The train ride to Chicago was one of our favorite things to do and we were both excited for the journey and weekend ahead. After we got to the train station, we found out the train we were on, which was the last one to Chicago that day, had been canceled. All train passengers were given bus tickets as the alternative mode of transportation. I was not happy, and it was pretty clear to Harry as we got on the bus.
As I sat there fuming about the situation, Harry, smiling as always, looked at me and said; "It's OK dad, we're together."
Sure do miss that boy.
I appreciate you,
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