GIBSON CITY — Organizers of Gibson City’s fifth annual Harvest Fest are well aware that it might be difficult to attract a large crowd to the city’s downtown on the night of Friday, Sept. 13, when the two-day festival kicks off.
After all, that same night the defending Class 2A state champion Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley High School Falcons football team is playing on the road at Heyworth, bringing its faithful fanbase with.
But those residents who decide to stick around town will be in for a treat. Starting at 4 p.m., Harvest Fest gets under way with family games and activities, a beer tent and food vendors, leading up to a pair of concerts that night — Jake & Jackson (5 to 7 p.m.) and the Fun Pianos’ interactive dueling pianos show (7:30 to 10:30 p.m.).
“We’ve got things for everybody to do,” said Bill Kirby, president of the board of directors for the Gibson Area Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the festival each September. “I know there’s high school football that night, but if you don’t want to travel on Friday, we’ve got a lot of family-friendly things to do — activities specifically geared toward the family.”
With no football the following day, a much larger crowd is expected to be on hand for the full day of activities slated for Saturday, Sept. 14.
Saturday’s events kick off with a car show at The Bank of Gibson City from 7 to 9 a.m., followed by events downtown getting under way at 11 a.m.
There will be a beer tent (11 a.m. to 11 p.m.), food vendors (11 a.m. to 9 p.m.), retail vendors (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.), health care-related educational activities provided by Gibson Area Hospital (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and a Kids’ Zone featuring inflatables, Funbelievable balloons, face painting by the Zoo Lady, mini golf, a reptile petting zoo, Clothes Pin Puppets and barrel wagon rides (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
Four bands will also be performing Saturday on a stage set up beside City Hall: The Fairchilds (11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.), Counterfeit (2 to 4 p.m.), The Devin Clemons Band (7:30 p.m.) and, lastly, Nashville recording artist Colt Ford.
The concerts are free to the public.
“Evidently, Colt Ford has quite the following,” Kirby said, “so we’re actually expecting quite a big crowd. We’re expecting to bring quite a few people from out of town specifically for Colt Ford.”
Other activities on Saturday include an axe-throwing contest (noon to 11 p.m.), a bags tournament (1 to 4 p.m.), a beer-stein-holding competition (8:30 p.m.) and the “Absurd 1/3 Race” (4 to 6 p.m.).
The second annual Absurd 1/3 Race involves participants making a $25 donation to Shriners Hospitals for Children in return for the opportunity to have a drink — anything from a water to a beer — at each of three stops at downtown bars. The event begins at the American Legion post, then proceeds to Jay’s Place and then to Burgers & Beer. Participants will receive a T-shirt, cup, medal and sticker. People can sign up and pay at www.gibsoncityharvestfest.com under the “contests” tab.
“It’s kind of a fun fundraiser for the Shriners,” Kirby said.
The axe-throwing contest is being sponsored by the Gibson City Rotary Club and will involve participants making a $5 donation for five attempts at throwing an axe at a target, or an $8 donation for 10 throws. When dusk arrives, the axes will glow in the dark.
“I’ve heard a couple people say they’ve done it before, and they say it’s a blast,” Kirby said.
The beer-stein-holding contest involves participants holding a plastic beer stein filled with beer to see who can hold it the longest without moving their arm. Registration begins at 8 p.m. for two competitions, one involving 25 men and the other 25 women. There is a $20 entry fee per contestant. First-place winners receive $50 and an authentic German beer stein. All participants receive a beer mug filled with Samuel Adams Octoberfest beer.
The double-elimination bags tourney — sponsored by Hieser Insurance — will award a $500 cash prize to the winning team, along with cash prizes for the runner-up and third-place finishers. Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., and all teams must be registered and pay a $40 registration fee by 12:30 p.m., with play beginning at 1 p.m. People can register at www.gibsoncityharvestfest.com under the “contests” tab.
People can find out more about the festival by visiting www.gibsoncityharvestfest.com or the event’s Facebook page (gcharvestfest).