Kathy Kovach makes the same wish every year about this time. "No rain. Please, no rain." She laughs as she says the words, but rain is no laughing matter when you have spent hundreds of hours organizing Sheffield Lake's annual Community Days.
The outdoor celebration runs July 10-14. Events are at several locations at and near Shoreway Shopping Center, 4128 Lake Road. (A schedule accompanies this story.)
Kathy and her husband, Steve, who have lived in Sheffield Lake since 1974, have been a driving force behind the five-day event for 35 years. Steve remembers when they became involved because their son, Steven, was 8 and a Boy Scout.
Through their involvement with Scouts, Steve joined Community Civic Council, a nonprofit organization whose members included representatives from various Sheffield Lake church and civic organizations. The council sponsors Community Days to raise funds in support of community activities.
For the parade, Kathy recruits, on average, 60 units, including elected officials, first responders, vintage cars, the Brookside High School Marching Band, Shriners and a host of local groups like the Domonkas Branch Library, youth baseball, and the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Kathy is particularly excited about having OVI in the parade because this year will be its first appearance.
She explains this should be its second appearance and the conversation reverts back to rain to explain why. Last year, as marchers began to take their places, a wind and rain storm hit.
"I was in tears," Kathy said, noting it was not just the hours of planning that went down the drain with the washout, but knowing the disappointment of kids who line Lake Road from the Joyce Hanks Community Center to Shoreway Shopping Center, waving and smiling at marchers who toss wrapped candy to them.
Steve recalled that tents pitched throughout the shopping center for vendors and information booths collapsed or were blown apart by strong winds. He recalled watching one large canvas tumble down Lake Road. The city's large tent that protected the entertainment stage was shredded. They scrambled the next day to find and erect a rented replacement.
The Kovachs and other volunteers pulled together to ensure the carnival opened on time the following day and to prepare for the fireworks display, which requires closing the boat launch across the street.
This year, Kathy has a co-chair. Neil Hamilton is learning the ropes and she expects he will take over the parade next year. She said she hopes to sit in the reviewing stand to watch the parade for once. Then she admitted she wants to continue in the coveted role of announcing the groups as they reach the judges.
Steve, who has served on city council for 16 years, retired last December after 46 years with AutoNation, formerly John Lance Ford. He has no plans to retire from his work on Community Days or Community Civic Council, although he seemed pleased to be getting help this year from fellow councilman Rocky Radeff and his brother, Dugan.
While the carnival is free, visitors must buy tickets or a wristband to get on the rides. Proceeds from those sales are used by Civic Council to support various organizations. Steve said the council has contributed to school district activities including robotics and the endowment fund. The organization also pays for upkeep of the floor at the community center, donates money for park improvements and provides funds for Christmas baskets for local families in need.
The Kovachs believe Community Days could not happen without the help of loyal, long-time volunteers including JoAnn McFaul. Steve said JoAnn's husband, Paul, was running Community Days when he became involved with Civic Council. After Paul died, Steve stepped into the role. The Kovachs said JoAnn and Paul's son and daughter-in-law, Jim and Amy, along with their friend, Paul, and council treasurer Janice Eddy have played key roles for many years.
The McFauls even moved a trailer onto the shopping center grounds, where they spend the night in case a situation needs to be immediately addressed.
Kathy added that volunteers from the Avon Target store assist with the parade. Steve noted that Lynette Moore and Kathy Janisek are a big help, too.
Both grew reluctant to name additional volunteers who operate ticket booths during the carnival or assist with entertainment, setup, cleanup and myriad needs that pop up during the five days. "I'm afraid of forgetting someone and hurting their feelings," Steve said.
"We couldn't do it without the help of these people," Kathy said, acknowledging the trust they have for each other, which helps things fall into place smoothly or pitch in when something unexpected happens. Then she added, "Pray for no rain."
Michele Murphy is a freelance reporter from Avon Lake.