INDEPENDENCE — It’s a small-town festival, created by the community for the community, said Jason Kistler, member of the Hops & Heritage Festival commission.
The festival is early this year. Usually falling toward the end of September, it was moved up to avoid competing with other events — and to give festival-goers a better shot at good weather.
“Two years ago we almost canceled the festival because there was a big monsoon moving in,” Kistler recalled. “So we moved it up a week.”
Hops & Heritage puts a nice little exclamation mark on summer and kicks off fall all at once, said Marie Trucco, member of the commission.
“I think it’s just a sweet celebration of the community,” she said. “Last year, people came and stayed and played. It’s small; it’s not the Fourth of July, but people found things that (piqued) their interest.”
It’s no surprise, given all the different things to do, from trying your hand at painting, to entering old-time contests such as building a scarecrow or eating pie. There’s even a parade — of critters, that is. Some of the most interesting animals join the parade, from chickens to parrots, reptiles to more traditional pets such as dogs.
This year, instead of a cookie-baking contest — which seems to have run its course due to the low number of entries last year — the festival will host a culinary challenge to cook with beer.
“We’re looking for anything that you can incorporate beer or hops into,” Kistler said. “We’re hoping to cast a wider net that way, hoping for more entries.”
The scarecrow contest always brings a big crowd of creations, from professional-grade to more original models.
The Independence Public Library will host a scarecrow making workshop on Tuesday, Sept. 15, from 4 to 5 p.m.
In the children’s pavilion, many favorite games from last year will return with some new additions, Trucco said.
“Everything they do in there are kind of heritage games that came from the ’50s and ’60s,” she said. “Things that children don’t maybe do today, but it was really well received last year.”
Some of the games are much older than mid-century, including croquet. Others are more modern, such as go fish and Extreme pin the tail on the donkey.
“There’s little booths where you can go from booth to booth and make things,” Trucco said. “All of the events and all of the demonstrations are meant to celebrate the heritage of the community and the importance of hops in the community.”
From 1856 to 1956, Independence was known as the Hop Capital of the World. The Hops & Heritage Festival is meant to celebrate the time when the city grew more hops than anyone else in the nation. Entertainment, vendors and activities reflect that time period in one way or another.
Vendors will carry a variety of wares, including blown glass art pieces and handmade jewelry, Kistler said.
“We ask that either the vendor’s product is historically relevant, or that they have something informational about the history or dress up their booth with hops,” Kistler said. “We want to try and maintain the whole heritage aspect of the festival.”
The festival opens Friday night with the annual Ghost Walk and Elks community barbecue. Saturday, early birds can start the day off watching hot air balloons launch at the Independence State Airport and have breakfast with the pilots of the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 292 before heading to Riverview Park for the day’s festivities.
Music fills the air beginning at noon and continues into the evening with a break at 8 for the fireworks show.
“Everyone from Independence loves fireworks,” Kistler said, especially in the fall, Trucco noted.