Special activities offered for 20th annual Rhubarb Festival

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
The line goes fast during Rhubarb Festival to plate up rhubarb treats to sample. Rhubarb tasting runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, June 3 & 4.

A sand sculptor from Ohio, Aaron Costic, will be putting together a giant sand sculpture during Friday and Saturday's Rhubarb Festival in Aledo's Central Park fountain, June 3 - 4. Miller Excavating of Silvis will be bringing in a special mixture of sand, gravel, silt, clay and organic materials for the artist to work with. Costic calls what he does "Artistic Entertainment." He is a traveling freelance artist that works in sand, ice and chalk. He will be working in Aledo Central Park's fountain from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Friday and Saturday.

"Don't forget to bring a lawn chair," says Darlene Johnson, festival organizer.

This is just one of the special activities being offered for Aledo's 20th annual Rhubarb Festival. With the first weekend in June just on the horizon, it's not too early to think about coming to Aledo's annual Rhubarb Festival.

Johnson talked to the artist but gave him no direction as to what to sculpt. "I left it up to him," she said, although she did admit "there will be a pie and there will be rhubarb leaves."

Darlene Johnson and her committees have been working since the beginning of the year to firm up many of the groups that will be featured at the annual event. This year marks the 20th annual Rhubarb Festival.

Activities start in Aledo Central Park at 9 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4. Bake sales, especially will be busy, selling homemade rhubarb pies and other rhubarb baked goods. "There's always rhubarb regret for some," says Johnson, founder and organizer of the annual Rhubarb Festival. She encourages visitors who want to buy a pie to be in Aledo before noon for the best selection.

Johnson expects there will be more than 3,000 rhubarb pies sold over those two days. "I would guess there will be 30 plus bake sales," she said.

The event brings in thousands to Aledo, she admits.

Band Shell

Aledo's Band Shell stage will be hopping from 11 a.m. Friday to 8 p.m. with the following musical entertainment: 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Fry Daddies; 1 - 3 p.m. Karen Keener; 3 - 5 p.m. Barehanded Wolfechokers (Dixieland Band) and 6 - 8 p.m. The Neverly Brothers.

Saturday's entertainment starts at 10 a.m. with the Mercer County High School Jazz Band playing from 10 a.m. to noon; 12 - 2 p.m. Ellis Kell & Whoozdads?; 2 - 4 p.m. Terry Hanson Jazz Quartet; 4-6 p.m. Myrna Rae Dancers and 7 - 9 p.m. Manny Lopez Big Band.

There will also be a surprise performance from some of the Rhubarb Festival Committee members doing a "Rhubarb Shuffle" choreographed by Myrna Rae Matlick.

What's new

New this year are four of the entertainers at the Band Shell, including the entertainment on Friday from 1 - 8 p.m. and the Manny Lopez Big Band on Saturday. There is a new Central Park booth with "The Jump Rope Girls" from Woodstock. "They're taking up two spaces and have all colors of rope," said Johnson.

If you're looking for an inexpensive memento from the festival, there will be a bubblegum machine delivery of Rhubarb Festival campaign style buttons. "They will have a variety of rhubarb sayings on the buttons," said Johnson.

What's back

The Rhubarb Festival has always been a family friendly event. Friday and Saturday will feature trolley rides from Central Park throughout Aledo. There is the tasting tent which opens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days.

On Saturday only, the Mercer County Courthouse lawn is transformed into a huge craft show with more than 100 quality exhibitors.

Both Friday and Saturday the Central Park Parking Lot will have spaces for antiques, flea market items and crafts, from 9-4 p.m.

Saturday morning starts out with a 5-K Rhubarb run-walk that starts at the Mercer County Family YMCA, 401 SW 2nd Ave., Aledo.

Also on Saturday is Alley Art at 9:30 a.m. and Kids activities 10-2 p.m., all located in the closed off street just east of the park.

The Mercer Carnegie Library, 200 N. College hosts a great book sale both Friday (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Saturday (9 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

At 11 a.m. Saturday is the Rhubarb Recipe contest underneath the Big Blue Tent, followed by a Big Leaf contest at 1 p.m.

Many area businesses will be open late during the festival, offering rhubarb treats, rhubarb specials and door prizes.