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Town’s Annual Festival Has Seen Better Days
Honestly, I was only joking about Jubilee Days last week. But wow, did I hear from a lot of people on the column entitled “Jubilee Days Needs Makeover.”
I just assumed everyone knew that the police standoff and the storm weren’t actually a part of the annual Jubilee Days festival. Some people have complained that I made light of the police standoff and the storm, and the problems those caused for a number of residents.
That wasn’t my intention and if anyone took it that way, you have my apology. When you’ve been me all your life, and I have, apologies are pretty much the norm. Remember, I was the KHS kid who caused longtime teachers Dan Purtee and Bill Bergmann to stop using the phrase, “There are no stupid questions.”
But of those who approached me on the matter, all were wondering what has happened to Jubilee Days.
Several people remembered the annual event as being chocked full of family-oriented activities that involved a good portion of the community. Some wondered if the annual festival hasn’t really run its course and no longer serves the purpose it once did.
Of course, if you ask any kid who enjoyed the carnival and parade, they’ll tell you Jubilee Days was a lot of fun.
I think it’s true that some members of the community still enjoy the festival, even though the turnout for the parade was sub par. There were some pretty good crowds at the carnival before the storm blew in and caused a lot of people to stay home.
But let’s address the question about the festival. Is Jubilee Days what it used to be, or has the community’s annual celebration dwindled to a shell of its former self? A little research may have provided the answer to that question, so you can decide for yourself.
Poor Jack’s Amusements Wednesday-Saturday
Jubilee Days Parade, featuring a dozen floats and Grand Marshal Billy Keller of the ABA champion Indiana Pacers
Queen crowning at Knightstown High School
17th annual running of the Little 50 Bike Race, KHS track. Four races in all, both boys and girls divisions
Float award presentations
Swimming and diving competitions at Sunset Park pool
Pet Parade on town square
Doll Show on town square
Over 100 prize drawings at 2 p.m.
Big Blue River Canoe Race, 17 entries
Big Blue River Canoe Race, 48 entries, four divisions
Poor Jack’s Amusements Tuesday-Saturday
Hot Air Balloon launching
Jubilee Days Parade
Queen contest and crowning
Float Contest and award presentation
Lion’s Club Basketball Shoot Contest
Chamber of Commerce Home Show
Kiddie Pedal Tractor Pull
Lion’s Club Basketball Shoot Semifinals
American Legion Golf Contest
One mile Fun Run
10K Run, trophies awarded
Lion’s Club Basketball Shoot Finals
Knightstown Volunteer Fire Department Waterball Contest
Town & Country Homemakers Baby Contest
Psi Iota Cake Walk
Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Banquet
Jessup’s Amusements Wednesday through Saturday
Queen contest and crowning
Jubilee Days Parade.
It looks like it’s definitely not what it used to be. Maybe Jubilee Days has run its course.
In 1973, the Little 50 Bike Race followed the queen contest at the high school, which followed the parade that trekked through town and ended at the school. Those events drew a crowd estimated at 2,000. The townsfolk usually followed the parade to the high school track and watched the queen’s crowning and then the bike races.
In 1983, the bike race was history, but as you can see, was replaced by a number of other events. That year there were more than 60 entries in the parade, not counting police cars and fire trucks, and counting groups (i.e. antique cars and trucks or Shriner mini-bike riders) as one entry.
What was a 90-minute parade in 1983 has become a 30-minute parade today, with some entries spaced several minutes apart.
There are probably many reasons for the nosedive in activities and community involvement, let alone attendance. In 1983, the majority of the businesses who participated in sidewalk sales during the festival are now gone.
Today, there are many other things happening that dip into the attention span of the public. There’s all kinds of competition for people’s time, and it appears that in its present day form, Jubilee Days is losing the battle for some of that time.
Like many other things in communities this size, when something starts to die out it’s either because new blood is needed to keep it alive, or it simply no longer serves its designed purpose.
In the 1950s, Knightstown merchants came up with the idea of Jubilee Days to coincide with sidewalk sales held by the many retail shops in the town. The event brought thousands of people to the town and the businesses benefited tremendously.
Today, outside of antique-oriented businesses, there are mostly no retail shops in Knightstown. Because of that, today, the Jubilee Days activities are more a distraction and an inconvenience to those businesses that currently operate in the downtown area.
There needs to be a new plan. The 1950s blueprint for Jubilee Days is obsolete and has been for several years.
If we’re going to keep this tradition alive, new ideas need to be born. If not, the entire festival will, and should, go the way of the Little 50 Bike Race, the Carthage Fall Festival and the Spiceland Freedom Days.
Jubilee Days needs to be either reinvented or become a part of history.
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