Clarion puts on a festival

CLARION – More was going on during the annual Festival in the Park celebration Saturday in Clarion than a bit of fun. Families were strengthened and the future of a community was fortified.

“We’ve been coming here to the festival since I was a baby,” said Mariah Thul, of Eagle Grove. “My dad is from here, he works here, and my mom grew up here. It’s a family tradition.”

And it’s a tradition she helped pass along to the next generation by helping her niece, Kataryn Thul, 5, of Eagle Grove, paint a boat to race in the rain gutter regatta at the children’s activities zone set up in Gazebo Park.

“She is having a blast,” Mariah Thul said. “She almost didn’t finish eating before she was wanting to come over here and do this.”

Also excited and ready to amass new experiences were Freddie and Nathan Merlow, ages 4 and 3, of Goldfield. Though not with a blood relative, they were still sharing in family-style fun.

“We were coming anyway, so we thought let’s get them in the truck and bring them along with us,” said Stephanie Rasmussen, a co-worker of the boys’ mother. “Their mom is working so we thought we would just help her out and let the boys have fun at the same time.”

The brothers had not been to a parade before, said Bruce Rasmussen. They were particularly fond of the antique tractors and wanted to see them up close once the machines were parked and on display. They also wanted to dip into the big bag of candy they acquired from the “Candy Car” at the end of the parade.

Leah Phinney, 5, of Arkansas, had seen a parade before, but what the festival offered the little girl was a chance to share in childhood experiences with her mother.

“It’s a way for Leah to connect to my wife’s background, to share in things my wife did as a child,” said Josh Phinney. “She went to school here in Clarion, and for me it’s cool to meet her high school friends and just see where she grew up. It’s establishing a greater connection with family and to us family is important.”

That feeling of being connected and part of a larger whole is a basic human necessity for happiness, said Greg Chapman, a volunteer working in the fishing game in the children’s fun zone. A feeling of family togetherness and unity makes for a strong community bond and that’s why people give their time and effort to ensure traditions like Festival in the Park continue.

“It just offers the opportunity for a whole bunch of camaraderie,” Chapman said. “The whole community comes out and you can see people you haven’t seen in a while or even make some new acquaintances It’s just folks getting together and having fun. It’s just a feeling of community.”