Big changes are coming to the Chagrin Valley Jaycees annual Blossom Time Festival in 2019.
Organization leaders announced earlier this week that they are responding to surveys issued soon after this year’s event concluded, and one of the major upgrades will be the rides.
Survey opinions, 32 pages of them, ranged from “We love it don’t change a thing” all the way over to “Get rid of Blossom Time,” said current Jaycee President Craig Lyndall.
“What we did was eliminate the most negative responses and the most positive ones and concentrated in the middle” where he notes the new ideas and sincere constructive criticism landed.
For decades, Jaycees have used Great Lakes Amusements, and next year they will use Bates Amusement, described as “modern and upgraded” by Mr. Lyndall. He pointed out Blossom Time carnivals have had the same rides for 20 years. They are what worked for the size of the Riverside Park carnival midway. Bates offered other options.
This was no rash decision, Mr. Lyndall added. “We had been thinking about the same kinds of things and the survey results reinforced changing it up.”
Mr. Lyndall said to find the right fit in carnival purveyors, the Jaycee leadership, including the 2019 Blossom Time chairman Jeff Poprik, attended carnivals around the state and Bates consistently rose to the top of the list.
Overall, Mr. Lyndall said Bates takes the carnival business to a whole other level and for a number of reasons including the “brightly lighted and freshly painted” look of the rides and game concessions.
“Even those (members) who were not sure of the decision have since visited a Bates carnival and have told us we did the right thing,” Mr. Lyndall adds.
Mr. Poprik cautioned that the same beloved rides, including the carousel and Ferris wheel, will be back but with a little different and fresher look.
“And we think for the first time in Blossom Time history we are going to have a fun house,” he said. It was the one missing attraction kids wanted.
Although nothing has been decided on changes to the other Blossom Time attractions, Mr. Lyndall and Mr. Poprik agreed the Friday night Balloon Glow will stay as is. They agree it is the most universally accepted and among the most popular events of the weekend.
The 5K Blossom Time Run also remains unchanged, except for the availability of signing up to run at the starting line. Runners liked the convenience, they said. And there were fewer “bandit” runners who enter without paying an entry fee.
Also apt to stick around next year are the weekend ride bracelets, which was a boon to parents of “free range children” and shortened ticket lines.
Plans are underway to add new musical groups to the Big Top Tent lineup of free entertainment. Whether the popular Beatles tribute band returns – it has been absent for several years – is up to an as yet unidentified sponsor who will write a check to cover the price.
Mr. Poprik notes the bottom line and impetus for the survey is the Jaycees’ commitment to take more control of the Blossom Time events, which have relied on repeating the same blueprint from the years past.
To that end, the Jaycees are also considering different types of offerings to the Taste of Chagrin food court staged on North Franklin Street. There have been complaints of too many repeated carnival food concessions.
Mr. Lyndall said Blossom Time classic midway food is contracted through a separate purveyor and contracts require the concessions be included off the midway when food is made available to the public.
Also in the works are changes to the Sunday afternoon Blossom Time Parade. Again opinions are diverse. “Some people love it and don’t want it to change and others think just the opposite,” Mr. Lyndall said.
But the Jaycees say they understand there are issues with the parade and they are working on improvements including visiting with neighborhood groups and businesses and encouraging them to enter their own floats and units.
“We aren’t looking for a longer parade but a better one,” Mr. Lyndall notes.
And, yes, the two men say they have heard complaints the parade is too commercial with little thought to making these entries more theme oriented. It has been pointed out that some of the trucks and heavy equipment entered as parade units have not so much as a flag to decorate them.
Mr. Lyndall and Mr. Poprik understand, but they say they are reluctant to reign in the commercial entries because they pay a greater parade entry fee than the nonprofit groups.
At the end of the day it is all about profit, the men agree. It is not a dirty word where the Chagrin Valley Jaycees are concerned because the profits are given away in February during the Distinguished Service Award dinner when the Jacyees hand checks to dozens of nonprofit groups and charities.
“Everything we (Jaycees) do and all the money we raise, we give away and we just love that night in February when we do,” Mr. Lyndall said.