A Fest for the rest of us

A little over nine years ago, a small group of Chester residents sat around a table and brainstormed about how to bring the community closer together in light of an expanding population and a citizenry that was becoming busier by the day. The little committee kicked around the idea of a picnic or mega pot luck; they considered a tour of the historic Chester village and tossed around everything from fireworks displays to a pops concert before eventually settling on a mix of many of the things discussed.

Names were considered and Chester resident Tim Stanton presented the name ChesterFest. He also designed the logo, which incorporates the ChesterFest moniker over a railroad track, reminiscent of Chester’s railroad history.

In 2001, ChesterFest began with about 20 arts and crafts booths and several musical groups performing on a single stage. Charlie Sibley provided BBQ and a special “Kid’s Zone” was established to keep the young ones busy while mom and dad mingled. Fewer than 1,000 people attended.

Through the years, ChesterFest has grown almost exponentially. By 2007, as many as 9,000 people attended the event, which boasted musical and performance acts on two stages, more than 100 booths and a variety of food vendors.

But, 2008 was a sad September for ChesterFest and Chester residents after a building under construction on the Village Green collapsed, killing one man and causing over $1 million in damage. Most of the Fest was canceled, but a plucky group of runners carried on. The ChesterFest/GIG (Green Infrastructure Group) 5K Race, which became part of ChesterFest in 2005, continued with much success. This year, the 5K is expected to attract more than 100 runners.

The event rebounded from a devastating 2008 for a banner ChesterFest last year.

With the streets partially closed and rain threatening throughout the day, ChesterFest 2009 was still one of the biggest and best in Chester festival history. A record crowd visited over 140 booths of artisans, crafters and purveyors of information. Food vendors fed the hungry masses and music and entertainment emanated from two stages.

This year’s ChesterFest will blast off on Saturday, Sept. 25, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Parking will be available at Thomas Dale High School with free shuttle service to the Village Green. ChesterFest is a free event.

Two stages of entertainment will feature a variety of acts, including the ever popular dog show, big band, popular music and dance demonstrations, as well as a preview of the Shepherd’s Center Senior Idol Competition.

Food vendors will bring food from around the world, including Greek favorites, seafood delights, prima Mexican and American southern staples. The 5K will kick-off the Fest at 8:30 a.m., and the Kid’s Zone will offer inflatables, games, contests and fun.

Over 140 artisans and crafters and purveyors of information will be on hand offering unique items for sale. Some vendors will be there to offer giveaways. Door prizes will also be awarded.

This year’s events will include a Tug o’ War pull off and the ever popular Cherry Pie Eating Contest will round out the day.

In the coming weeks, the Village News will feature articles on special vendors, entertainment, sponsors and other ChesterFest interests.


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