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Weekend rains rough on local charities that rely on festival revenue

Weekend rain forced area festivals to cancel or close early, and while visitors may have missed out on fresh moussaka at the Dayton Greek Festival, some vendors missed out on sales and some local charities will miss out on critical donations.

Across the Miami Valley, the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon brought 3 to 7 inches of rainfall from Friday to Sunday. Three of the area’s biggest weekend festivals were hurt by the wet weather — The Beavercreek Popcorn Festival, the Italian Fall Festa and the Dayton Greek Festival.

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“This was the worst weekend we’ve ever had,” volunteer Nancy Hadley said of Beavercreek’s 33rd popcorn festival, which was cancelled Saturday afternoon after advice from the fire department.

Hadley said they typically see at least 40,000 people attend the two-day popcorn-themed event, raising $10,000 to $15,000 for local churches and charities, including Feed the Creek, Boy Scouts Troop 42 and the high school scholarship program.

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“There’ll be no money for them at all,” Hadley said, estimating that less than 2,000 people made it out on Saturday before the event was shut down. “The people who are really suffering are the vendors. This year they all took a severe hit, I’m sure. It’s sad to see all that work, you see everyone struggling to be ready and then it rains.”

Organizers for the Dayton Greek Festival and the Italian Fall Festa are still crunching numbers to determine what the weather meant for revenue.

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Leftover pans of moussaka, gyro meat, Tzatziki sauce, pita bread and pastries remain from the Dayton Greek Festival, and those interested can call the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church to see what’s available, festival co-chairs Nikki Burns and Connie Yorgen said in a prepared statement.

“We did not charge admission the entire weekend due to the rain, so we do not have a count on attendance,” the statement reads. “What we can say is we had steady attendance every day in spite of the weather. While much less than normal, we are deeply grateful for all who came.”

Sales at the Dayton Greek Festival cover expenses for the festival, which is one of the Greek church’s primary fundraisers for the year. Money from tip jars was donated last year and will be again this year to the American Red Cross, the co-chairs’ statement reads.

If necessity is the mother of invention, Italian Fall Festa organizers are considering drive-through dining for next year’s event. The rains forced volunteers to take orders for food and deliver them to people in cars.

“We had cars in line from the minute we started until when we shut down,” said Brian Andzik, festival chairman. “We sincerely appreciate the community coming out to support us. They were glad they were able to still get food.”

Italian Fall Festa is organized by the Order of the Sons of Italy, which supports many local and national charities and scholarships as well as supports the organization’s operations and endeavors, Andzik said.

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The Italian Fall Festa is possible with the help of about 1,100 volunteers. Andzik said that army of helpers might be needed to help with potential smaller events before the end of the year.

“We’ve never had a year where all three days were a complete weather disaster,” Andzik said.

Jim Bucher, who assisted with promoting Italian Fall Festa this year and helps promote other local events, said festival organizers “hope and pray for great weather” every year.

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“‘In all the years I’ve covered festivals in local media and now promoting, I’ve never experienced it this bad. Mother Nature was a bit mischievous this past weekend,” Bucher said.

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