The annual Blossom Time festival, one of the most celebrated events of the year in Chagrin Falls, is just around the corner.
But the carnival rides, games, food stands, musical entertainment and other activities in Riverside Park nearly were snuffed out for good 41 years ago. Thanks in part to the curiosity of a young reporter at the Chagrin Valley Times, a threatened lawsuit against the Chagrin Valley Jaycees, sponsor of the festival, and the Village of Chagrin Falls unraveled, and Blossom Time remains alive and well today.
Shortly after the Jaycees wrapped up the 1978 event, a local attorney told the civic organization and Village Council that a group of residents near the park weren’t going to put up with what they termed a horrendous nuisance anymore. Furthermore, a group of village merchants was joining the opposition, because people attending Blossom Time took up all the parking spots in town, crowding out their customers.
Learning that the would-be plaintiffs in the lawsuit lived adjacent to the park on East Orange Street, the young reporter decided to contact neighboring residents for their comments and greater insight.
One of them, Richard T. Southmayd, who had made his objections known to Village Council on several occasions, said all but two of his neighbors “strenuously” objected to the carnival being practically in their backyards.
Actually, as the young reporter learned, only two of Mr. Southmayd’s neighbors spoke in support of his legal challenge. One of them also had complained to Village Council. Another told the reporter that carnival employees were “horrid people,” that fairgoers parked in front of her house, and odorous cooking resulted in “rotten air.”
But most neighbors were more tolerant and were willing to say so for the record.
“I don’t think it’s as objectionable as some people make it out to be,” John Parina told the reporter. “It’s only five days out of 365, and the police patrol very adequately.”
Mrs. Richard Parsons said her house was one of the closest ones to the festival. “There are problems in the park during other times of the year that are a lot worse than Blossom,” she said. “We slept better with the festival here. I wouldn’t sign any petition to eliminate it.”
Although the noise can be a problem for people who have to get up early in the morning, neighbor Harry E. Case said, “Basically, it doesn’t bother us much.”
According to Greg Robinson, Jaycees president at the time, the carnival rides were Blossom Time’s biggest drawing factor and income producer. Proceeds from the festival enable the Jaycees to donate thousands of dollars to numerous worthwhile community organizations.
After the story ran on the lead news page of the Times, the hue and cry for termination of carnival rides in Riverside Park floundered. Threats of a lawsuit went away.
Several years later the young reporter, who became an editor, and his wife watched with joy as their giggling children joined others on the kiddie rides at the annual spring carnival in Riverside Park. As the years passed, they enjoyed the balloon launches and Beatles tribute band with friends and neighbors. Their giggling children grew into Boy Scouts and athletes who participated in the parade and Blossom Time Run.
This year, when the now-retired editor watches his giggling grandchildren on the kiddie rides, he’ll be grateful to the Chagrin Valley Jaycees for sponsoring Blossom Time, to village officials for endorsing it and to the neighbors who spoke up for its preservation. And he’ll smile to think that he might have played a small role by doing his job as a journalist.
Mr. Lange is the retired editor of the Chagrin Valley Times.