• Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

River Raisin Festival in Blissfield promises something for everyone

ByMary M. Ward

Jul 7, 2022

BLISSFIELD – Three days of free fun in Blissfield Parks begins at 5pm today, ushering in the start of the 38th annual River Raisin Festival.

Charities, churches and service organizations benefit from the festival, according to a flyer distributed by the festival committee, which is made up entirely of volunteers. The festival will take place along the banks of the Raisin River in Bachmayer and Ellis Parks, and will continue until Saturday, July 9.

D&P Communications is the presenting sponsor of the River Raisin Festival.

Festival highlights include an enhanced fireworks display beginning at dusk Friday evening, the annual Saturday morning River Raisin Festival Parade, the Miss River Raisin Scholarship Program and the COVID-delayed return of the Miss River Raisin Princess Walk. which is one of the first programs to launch the festival today. The Princess Walk begins at 6 p.m. on the main stage in the Bachmayer Park Pavilion and features the scholarship competition contestants alongside the festival princesses who will perform various song and dance routines.

Maple Leaf Amusements returns as midway rides and games provider. Festival chairman Rick Allen said there are new attractions this year midway through. The carnival will open at 5 p.m. today and at noon Friday and Saturday, until evening each day.

Mustafa Alkhafahjai, left, of Ann Arbor and Phoebe Brown of Blissfield smile July 10, 2021 as they ride the Sizzler in Blissfield's Ellis Park during the River Raisin Festival.  Midway rides and carnival games are again provided this year by Maple Leaf Amusements.

“We’ve grown the festival over the past few years,” Allen said in a post on the Blissfield River Raisin Festival’s Facebook page. “We have nearly 50 artisans and traders, as well as a host of food vendors offering a variety of types of food offerings. Our carnival is exceptional. We also have fireworks on Friday nights, as well as our local Miss Michigan preliminary competition. Our main stage hosts musical performances throughout the weekend. We also have a children’s corner which offers activities with a petting zoo and exotic animals, pony rides and more.

“The best part is that there is no entrance to the festival grounds and the musical entertainment and children’s entertainment are also free.”

The Kids Corner, which features jugglers, karate demonstrations and face painting, will also host characters such as Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent, Princess Belle from “Beauty and the Beast”, Spider-Man, Batman and the Minions from the “Despicable Me” film franchise.

Raelynn Whitman, left, of Whitehouse, Ohio, is assisted on a pony by Paige Neblo of Paige's Pony Parties LLC of Riga on July 10, 2021, during the River Raisin Festival in Blissfield.  Pony rides will be available this weekend at Kids Corner in Bachmayer Park as part of the River Raisin Festival 2022, which begins today.

Waterball competitions, in which area fire departments compete with fire hoses to move a large, suspended ball to victory, return on Saturday afternoon after the parade’s conclusion for the first time since the festival 2019. The public is invited to take part in the friendly competition, the flyer said, or they can watch the action and cool off on a hot July day by getting wet from the pipes.

The parade, sponsored by Uckele Health and Nutrition, begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Blissfield Community Schools campus and runs down South Lane Street, turns onto US 223, and returns to the school grounds via Depot Street. The parade typically lasts 45 minutes, according to the flyer, and includes participants from the Shriners, farm equipment, clowns, the Blissfield High School Marching Band, tanks, tractors, classic cars and emergency vehicles. There may still be time to register a float for the parade. For a registration form, visit www.riverraisinfestival.org.

The second annual River Raisin Festival Battle of the Bands, which proved a hit in its inaugural season last year, returns to the Bachmayer Pavilion Main Stage on Saturday and continues through the post- noon and evening. The winning group takes home $1,000 cash in addition to the public voting dollars. Contest judges will select the overall winner.

Tara Renee, center, and her band pose for a photo on July 10, 2021, after the winners of Blissfield's inaugural River Raisin Festival Battle of the Bands were announced.  The group won a check for $1,000 from the festival.  The members are, from left, Conor Reed, Larry Bryan, Renee, Bob Pogue and Michelle Sharp.  The second annual River Raisin Festival Battle of the Bands returns Saturday, July 9.

There will also be antique tractor pulls as well as kids tractor pulls for younger kids; living history re-enactors; archery lessons for children provided by the River Raisin Sportsman’s Club; the Lightning Quick Gas ‘N’ Go Softball Tournament, which begins Friday, pauses for fireworks and resumes Friday night through Saturday; and the Blissfield Parks and Recreation 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament Saturday all day along South Lane Street. The basketball tournament, sponsored by Transcend Physical Therapy, will break for the parade and then resume in the afternoon.

Midnite Stew, an energetic cover band, will host the Pavilion stage from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, after the Miss River Raisin Festival scholarship program.

Miss River Raisin Festival Scholarship Program

The 27th annual Miss River Raisin Festival Scholarship Program, the only local Miss America Pageant for Lenawee County, begins at 6 p.m. Friday, July 8 at Bachmayer’s Main Stage. The competition emphasizes interview, talent and community service. Rachel Wandell, Miss River Raisin Festival 2000, is traveling to Blissfield from Chicago to host the program, the flyer said. The new Miss Michigan 2022 will also be a special guest.

The program has awarded more than $160,000 in college scholarships to women in Lenawee County over its 27-year history, the flyer says. The program winner will represent Lenawee County at Miss Michigan in June 2023.

Laurel Hammis, 20, was crowned Miss River Raisin Festival 2021 over a field of nine other women from Lenawee County at the River Raisin Festival in Blissfield in July 2021. Placing the crown on Hammis is 2019 and 2020 Miss River Raisin Festival Sydney Papenhagen from Blissfield.  Miss Michigan 2021, Vivian Zhong, left, attends the coronation ceremony.

There are 10 contestants appearing in this year’s program who will be joined alongside Laurel Hammis, who was crowned Miss River Raisin Festival 2021 last summer. The 10 competitors competing on Friday are:

  • Emily Auth, 19, of Blissfield, sophomore at the University of Michigan.
  • Ashely Brighton, 24, of Adrian, graduated in nursing from the University of Lourdes and is currently working in nursing.
  • Rylee Clairday, 20, of Onsted, junior at Eastern Michigan University.
  • Samantha McGaughey, 20, of Okemos, junior at Adrian College.
  • Hailie Medley, 18, Blissfield, freshman at Eastern Michigan University.
  • Ashlee Pelham, 23, of Adrian, a High School/English graduate from Adrian College.
  • Brooke Pickles, 24, from Toledo and Blissfield, is studying medicine at the American University of Antigua College of Medicine.
  • Jordan Prielipp, 20, from Britton, a senior at Alma College.
  • Jennifer Saxton, 22, of Blissfield, enrolled in the veterinary science program at Michigan State University.
  • Olivia Wood, 20, of Blissfield, an interior design student at Eastern Michigan University.

The scholarship program is co-sponsored by Borchardt Brothers Market and Blissfield BP. Major scholarship sponsors include Knapp Motors Chevrolet-Buick of Blissfield, Blissfield Rotary Club, and Blissfield Area Lions Club as well as individual contributors.