DALLAS — Ready or not, Summerfest has arrived and this year it will come with a Mardi Gras flair.
The annual four-day celebration kicks off Thursday, bringing vendors, live music, motorcycles and a spirited parade to downtown Dallas through Saturday. Then it’s to the park on Sunday.
This year’s Summerfest celebration, themed “Mardi Gras Masquerade,” is sure to bring festivities and fun for residents and visitors of all ages. But did you ever wonder just how much work goes into throwing such a party?
For Dallas Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chelsea Pope, there is one key ingredient that makes Dallas’ biggest annual event possible: volunteers.
“With just my staff, there is no way we could do Summerfest,” Pope said.
Summerfest planning is a months-long project, but when it gets to the point when it’s time to start setting up, Pope turns to a legion of volunteers, led by her “everything guy,” Jay Epperson.
Epperson puts up the banners on the highway and in town. He’s in charge of tent set up on the Wednesday before Summerfest begins and he will be there Saturday to help assure the parade goes exactly as planned.
“And anything in between that needs to happen, that’s me,” Epperson said. “It’s the biggest event in Dallas. I’ve got to help out with it.”
Epperson isn’t alone. Pope said the city of Dallas Public Works and Parks Departments, Dallas School District, the Polk County Fairgrounds & Event Center, Republic Services, Dallas’ police and fire crews, and the Oregon Army National Guard all pitch in equipment and time to make sure Summerfest runs smoothly.
Pope added there’s even people who volunteer to do the little things, like clear tables and do trash duty.
“It’s the things you don’t think about until it’s not done,” she said.
Epperson estimates that he puts in about 15 hours of just set up for Summerfest and that it takes dozens of volunteers to pull it off.
All the commitment and time is simply about community pride said another long-time Summerfest volunteer, Lynette Henshaw, who with LaVonne Wilson and Elaine Lawless manage the parade control station.
They are there at 6:45 a.m. Saturday morning registering parade entries and helping them line up in their assigned space.
“It’s a magnificent community and it wouldn’t be that way if we didn’t volunteer our time and our efforts to make it a quality place,” she said.
Thursday’s events kick off with the vendor area opening at the Polk County Courthouse lawn at 11 a.m. Youngsters wanting to get into the theme are welcome to decorate their own Mardi Gras mask Thursday, Friday or Saturday when the vendor area opens.
Live music of all varieties dot the schedule beginning with opening act Mountain String Band Thursday evening on the Courthouse lawn stage. At 6:30 p.m., the Sounds of Summer Summerfest edition show begins, starring the Gil Reynolds Band with guest Ben Rice.
Friday brings the ever-popular Kids Triathlon and Dallas Fire Department Waterball Competition, a refreshing end to a warm summer’s day.
Saturday, however, is Summerfest’s showcase day, beginning with the annual fun run in early morning, the parade, live music, the Dallas Lions Duck Race, and downtown’s closing event, Tony’s Bike Night. And don’t forget to cheer on your Dallas Fire & Emergency Medical Services extrication team as it takes on teams from North Kowichan, Canada, and Marion County to be crowned the best at vehicle rescue. The challenge takes place all day Saturday.
Sunday brings a low-key end to the celebration in Dallas City Park, for breakfast, a car show, Art in the Park, and a special edition of the Polk County Bounty Market.
• A guide previewing Summerfest 2014 and many of its popular events.
»Section C in the Polk County Itemizer-Observer.