Otsego Festival bigger, better all the time

by Dawn Feddersen-Poindexter
Contributing writer

Rose Cassady remembers when she helped start the Otsego Festival 12 years ago.

“It was scary,” she remarked. “And so small.”

Cassady recollected when someone on one end of the festival could just about have a conversation with someone on the other end. As she remembered this, however, she was sitting in a golf cart that she now has to use to traverse the sprawling event that the festival has become.

Kian Campbell, 13, and Colby Kochman, 15, of Coles Martial Arts, practicing the two-man staff drill.

“It’s grown every year by a lot,” Cassady said proudly. She said that this year’s festival (held last Saturday, Sept. 15) has way outdone last year’s estimated attendance of 6,000 people.

Cassady is proudest of the family friendly nature of the event, which attracts more kids every year.  The Teddy Bear Band played to more than 50 children holding their teddy bears in the air for their increasingly popular set. The bike parade had more than 50 entrants this year, showing it has more staying power than some may have thought. And Lowe’s was on hand to help children aseemble nearly 800 car kits. The pounding was music to Cassady’s ears.

Photos by Dawn Fedderson-Poindexter. Aiden Soderholm, 9, on the Euro Bungy.

One of the most expansive parts of the festival is the Classic Car Show. Put on by Otsego Rod and Custom, it featured 208 cars this year. The cars ranged from newer Mustangs to a 1937 Chevy truck. A 1957 Oldsmobile took the top prize of Club Choice.

All of the trophies for the cars that received awards were made by club members. But getting their hands dirty is one of their specialties.

Jim Stockamp, a founding member of the club, brought his 1950 Ford. Renovations on the car began 20 years ago when Stockamp’s father-in-law bought it. Now the project is in Stockamp’s hands.

“The old cars, they’re never what you would qualify as done. No one ever says that,” he said. “My car, it’s drivable. Almost everything works.”

Just steps away from the car show in body, but nearly a world away in mindset, Anita Isenor and her fellow dancers were getting ready to go on stage. All were amateurs except for Isenor, but they blended together in their flowing colorful dresses and glittering gold adornments.

Photo by Danetta Einberger
Last year’s Otsego royalty shared an endearing moment. From left to right is last year’s Little Miss runner-up Gabby Einberger, Little Miss Olivia Dammon and Junior Miss Cami Rose.

Most of the dancers have day jobs and families but each came to be a part of her group.

Isenor explained, “Every person here is here for a different reason. Some for exercise, some for performing arts, some love the cultural diversity and music. And some come for friendship; friendship is huge. And everybody ends up being here for some of all of the above.”

Isenor referred to their performance as “ethnic dance.” Though their garments might confuse them with belly dancers, she said that they have some moves in common but their dancing tries “to be more genuine to the culture.”

While the event exposed visitors to many new and unique things, its true purpose was closer to the hearts of most Otsego residents: families.

Mason, 8, and Owen Ringate made cars from kits by Lowe’s.

There was food, crazy hair painting, bounce houses, a mechanical bull, and, new to the festival, Euro Bungy. The Euro Bungy attached kids and teens to long elastic cords and let them go wild on large, inflatable trampolines.

“My kids love this thing. They’re so excited,” said Amanda Beaudry. Her 5- and 10-year-old children eagerly strapped in while she and her six-month-old watched their aerial acrobatics.

As for 7-year-old Jack Ellingson, he was more excited to beat his twin sister, Emma, in the bouncy obstacle course.

“You could barely tell that I won, but I did,” he said, glancing with a grin at his sister.

It’s exactly these kind of hijinks that keeps Cassady excited to organize the event year after year.

She said, “People look forward to this. This is a family day. So we try to make sure there’s something for everybody.”