By Vivian Sade
CHURUBUSCO — It rained. It poured. But the band played on.
Showers and thunderstorms drenched festival-goers on two of the four nights of Turtle Days, but Friday and Saturday the weather was great for the parade, turtle races, Kids Day in the Park, Oscar’s 5K Run and the spectacular grand finale fireworks.
Jenna Rosswurm, president of this year’s festival, said that in addition to the rain on Wednesday and Thursday, the contracted midway, J&J Amusements, was not able to bring in the number of rides, concessions and games that the Turtle Days Festival board was under the impression they would have at this year’s festival.
“They do the Three Rivers Festival and it’s not for a few weeks, but they also had rides and trailers out at other festivals in different states that were unavailable,” Rosswurm said.
“There was miscommunication on the size of locations and how much to bring. They came up from Miami, Florida, and had not seen the park before,” she said.
She found out on opening day — Wednesday — that J&J Amusements was late setting up and couldn’t convince any game trailers or concession trailers to come to Turtle Days this year.
While the company did provide about the same amount of rides as in years past, it seemed smaller because there were no games or concessions, Rosswurm said.
Social media lit up with negative comments about Turtle Days and the board.
Rosswurm said that what many people don’t realize is that there are only a few midway companies left in Indiana.
“It’s very hard to convince a company from another state to come here because of permits, tags and licenses, especially to such a small town,” she said. “We have big hearts but not a large profit.”
Rosswurm contacted 25 midway companies about coming to ’Busco this year and J&J Amusements was the only one that expressed an interest, she said. The festival board does not pay the midways for their services, but rather is offered a percentage of the profits. This year the board received 15 percent of the total gross J&J Amusements made.
The Turtle Days Association uses that money to pay for live entertainment, the tents, the generator, the port-a-potties and other expenses.
While the festival association received many negative comments — mostly from people who had never volunteered to help and don’t really understand what it takes, or costs, to coordinate the four-day event— it also received many positive comments, Rosswurm said.
Bruce Johnson, a Turtle Days board member and a Churuubsco Town councilman, and his wife, Terri, volunteered to operate a color wheel game borrowed at the last minute from the Lions Club. Lisa Fensler, owner/ operator of Center Stage Dance Academy, and several academy dance moms quickly brought in $400 worth of prizes and children’s games.
“They saw the lack of games and offered to help. I was so grateful,” Rosswurm said.
The festival is not run by the town but by a separate committee of 13 people who organize and work all the pre-festival fundraisers and the four-day festival.
And soon, after a short summer break, it will be time for that small group of people to start planning the 68th annual Turtle Days Festival in 2017.