ATTENDEES ENJOY the music of Squeezebox during last year’s Hamler Summer Fest. This year’s event will take place July 26 to 28 at Hamler Community Park. (Photo provided).

Hamler Summer Fest celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with the “the granddaddy of them all.”

According to Ben Botjer, a Summer Fest trustee, the event lived up to its billing by attracting around 20,000 attendees. Some came from as far as Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia and Florida.

“It’d be awesome if we could top it,” he said. “It’s going to be tough to do, but we’re hoping so if the weather stays nice.”

This year, the 51st annual event runs July 26 to 28. It will feature live music, kids’ activities, dancing, games, a 5K, German food and beer at Hamler Community Park.

The park, located on Ohio 109 on the north edge of Hamler beside the railroad track, has a 25,000-square-foot shelter that will house the attendees.

An interdenominational church service will kick off the celebration at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 25.

Gates will open at 4:30 p.m. Friday, July 26, with the food line open at 5. Saturday’s gates open at 2 p.m., with the food ready at 3. Sunday’s gates open at 10 a.m., and events kick off with an 11 a.m. church service featuring Mollie B, an International Polka Association Hall of Famer. Food will be ready at 11:30.

A three-day pass costs $15, with Friday and Saturday admission at $7. Sunday’s church service offers free admission from 10 to 11 a.m., with $5 afterward. Children under 16 years old are admitted free with a guardian, and anyone who brings a child on Sunday gets free admission for the day, which will have extra children’s activities and free prizes.

On-site camping is free, with donations accepted. All of the event’s proceeds benefit the Hamler Community Park System, a tax-free park system.

The weekend’s food includes barbecue chicken, bratwurst, hot beef, hot dogs, beef and noodles, baked beans, German potato salad, sauerkraut, and ice cream.

The music menu is loaded with award-winning musicians, including Squeezebox, a northwest Ohio band led by Ted Lange and Mollie B that features a repertoire of 800 songs of polka, waltz, fox-trots, two-steps, big band, swing, square dances, and figure dances in four languages; Fred Ziwich, a Cleveland polka legend and Grammy nominee; Gary’s Ridgeland Dutchmen, a Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Band of the Year in 2003 and 2008; Kordupel and Culkar Band, a Cleveland-area group specializing in Slovenian and German polkas and waltzes with some American favorites; and Aaron Dussing, the bandleader of Polka Revolution with proficiency on 20 instruments.

Friday’s music includes Aaron Dussing from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., with Gary’s Ridgeland Dutchmen playing from 7 to 10 p.m.

Saturday’s music includes Kordupel and Culkar Band from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Squeezebox from 4 to 8:30 p.m., and Gary’s Ridgeland Dutchmen from 7 to 10 p.m.

Squeezebox will play 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, and Fred Ziwich will conclude the live entertainment from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Friday’s 5K course will be a flat and fast in-town/country loop. The run begins at 7 p.m., with $20 to $25 registration beginning at 6. The 1K Kids Run at 6:30 p.m. is open to kids 12 and under. Free registration begins at 6.

Participants in the 5K can also register on www.hamlersf.com as well as on the “Hamler Summer Fest Ohio” Facebook page. They will receive free Friday festival admission and a free drink ticket.

All 5K proceeds go toward the Xavier and Aidan Wensink Memorial Scholarship.

Registration for Saturday’s cornhole and pong tournaments is 4 p.m. that day at $20 a team each, with cornhole beginning at 5 and pong starting after cornhole concludes. Prizes are offered.

Botjer says the interdenominational church service and kids’ day made their first appearance last year and proved quite popular, so this year’s event will feature bigger and more exciting blow-up rides, shaved ice, cotton candy and face-painting.

For more information, contact Chris Kime, 2019 festival president, at 419-270-1562.

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