CORTLAND – Alvina Stover is one of the five members of Cortland’s Festival and Parade Committee who work hard to make the town’s Summer Fest and the Fall Festival and Parade a success. The fourth annual Summer Fest will be this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 9 and 10.
“We had a really great turnout that first year so we decided to make it a two-day event,” said Stover, who has lived in Cortland since 2005 and served on the committee since 2006.
Cortland Summer Fest started as a fun way to raise money for the Fall Festival and Parade, which has been a growing community tradition for more than 30 years. Stover said last year’s parade had about 1,300 participants.
Five bands will perform well into the night during the two-day Summer Fest.
“There will be lighting in the park this year, which is huge,” Stover said. “We were approved for electricity earlier this year and Summer Fest will be the kickoff for that.”
Stover sat down in her home with MidWeek reporter Curtis Clegg to talk about this year’s festivities.
MidWeek: What brought you to Cortland?
Alvina Stover: We were brought to Cortland after we found this house. We were originally looking in Sycamore, DeKalb, but we didn’t find what we wanted, but then we found this house. Everything just fit; it’s a very nice small town with a good school, and we were charmed by people in the community.
MW: A sense of community seems to be what makes the fest a success.
AS: That’s why I have stayed on the committee for as long as I have, and it’s why the other committee members stay on it.
MW: What are your goals for the two events?
AS: Our No. 1 goal is to bring the community together. We aren’t in the business to make money. We try to keep our prices low and try and offer something for the kids to do. When we think about our pricing and what to charge people for admission and beverages, we always want to keep in mind that we want to keep prices low. ...One of the things we think about when we are doing this event is to get local bands. For example, on Friday night 29 Needles will be playing, and they are from Cortland. On Saturday we have more local bands and our headliner band, Back Country Roads, to finish off the event with fireworks.
MW: How did things go last year?
AS: Last year it was a huge success. I was working in the beer garden and for a couple hours when Back Country Roads was playing there was a constant line and all I could see was people lined up. I couldn’t see the stage. It’s exciting because it takes a while to get to that point. The year before we had hail, which was strange because it was in August. That turned a lot of people away.
MW: Is there anything else that’s new, or that you really want people to know about?
AS: The Cortland library has done a lot of work planning kids’ games and activities for Saturday. That was a huge hit last year. They have their own area sectioned off and the activities are all free, so the kids can come play for free and stay as long as they would like. We’re really excited about doing that again. ...We will again have the Cruizin’ Wheels Car Show. That was huge last year; we had a ton of cars for that.
MW: How important is it to build partnerships with organizations like the library?
AS: That was something that was started last year, and it was actually their idea. It was such an excellent suggestion because in years prior there wasn’t much for kids to do, and that’s something they noticed and they stepped up and asked, “Can we do this?” We appreciate their help and their ideas on that. We also work with the Cortland Lions Club. They sell some concessions to support their programs, and we also work with the Cortland (Methodist) Church.
MW: Are all the events free once you pay admission?
AS: I’m glad you asked that because we get a lot of questions about that. We set it up so it’s $5 for ages 21 and over to enter the event itself. That covers admission to hear all the bands and to purchase beer. Under 21, you’re free (admission).
MW: Are the fireworks new?
AS: No, we did that last year as well. This is our second year doing it. ...We had such a tremendous response from the fireworks. People loved it. Even if you didn’t come to Summer Fest, you could sit around and watch them.
MW: Will the fireworks be during the Back Country Roads concert?
AS: Yes, the fireworks will be during a break just like they did last year. They play from 7 to 11:30, so we have that time for a break for the fireworks.
MW: You have a wide variety of bands performing.
AS: That’s one thing we look at. We want to have something for everyone. We have some heavy rock bands, but we also have a group that will play some older music and then of course we have our country band.
MW: What other events are on the calendar?
AS: Last year we had over 30 items for the silent auction and they were all donated by people in the business community. It was really fun to watch that. It’s amazing to see the kind of support we got for that from the community.
MW: Is there plenty of parking?
AS: There is plenty of parking. It has never been an issue and it doesn’t cost anything and it’s right next to the park. We have a lot of volunteers in the park telling people where they can park.
MW: Tell me about the Fall Festival.
AS: One thing we have nailed down this year is the theme, which is science fiction. We are really excited about it. As soon as the Summer Fest is over we’ll start sending out forms for people who want to participate in October. In the meantime, people can think about float design in terms of science fiction.
MW: What will the date be?
AS: We always have it two weeks before Sycamore (Pumpkin Festival). This year it’s on Oct. 13. The parade is at 1 (p.m.) and then from 1:30 to 5:30 we have the festival.