Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival returns Labor Day weekend

Published 9:00 am Saturday, August 26, 2023

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Winchester’s annual end-of-the-summer bash is next weekend.

The Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival returns Sept. 2-3 for its 44th iteration with plenty of food, fun and crafts for the whole family to enjoy.

Before the festival officially opens on Saturday, there will be a street dance in front of the Clark County Courthouse to kick off the weekend.

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10:50 Arrival will headline the evening of toe-tapping merriment, lasting from 7-9 p.m.

For those who want an active start to their festival weekend, the Walk With Friends and the GRC Track and Cross Country Daniel Boone 5K begin at 8 a.m. at 303 Hickman Street.

The Walk with Friends will benefit the Clark County Animal Shelter, and a small amount of funds raised may go to the George Rogers Clark High School cheerleading squad and girls’ golf team. For more information, visit the festival website or email grccheerboosters@gmail.com

The 5K has a $25 registration preregistration fee, including a free t-shirt if participants sign up before Aug. 31. The fee increases to $30 starting on Sept. 1. Registration packets can be picked up on the Friday before the race from 6-8 p.m. at the College Park gym or beginning at 6 a.m. at the registration center on race day. For more information, visit the festival website.

The festival proper opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday and will be open until 5 p.m.

The popular talent show will take place at noon at the courthouse. There is a $5 registration fee, and preregistration will occur from 10-11:30 a.m.

Starting at 6 p.m. Jon Curtis will open Saturday night’s entertainment.

Then at 7 p.m., country star J.D. Shelburne will take to the stage as the weekend’s main musical attraction.

The main festival drag will reopen at 10 a.m. on Sunday and close at 5 p.m.

Since parking spaces are limited around downtown Winchester, festival-goers are encouraged to park at Robert D. Campell Junior High School, located at 620 Boone Ave., and ride the complimentary shuttle.

For more information on the festival, visit its Facebook page or website at www.danielboonepioonerfestival.com.

Back downtown

The festival will be in its third year since its return to downtown, and many Clark County residents have clamored for its return to its former location College Park.

However, Daniel Boone Festival Committee member Kitty Strode said the event had long outgrown its longtime home and also had become a logistical nightmare for the planning committee.

“It got to be a real hassle to get the shuttle buses in there to drop off people,” Strode said. “If you were handicapped, you could not even get into the park because you were walking over tree roots.”

Then there was the festival’s recurring nemesis: rain.

The festival committee often spent thousands of dollars on straw, and one year the folks handling the information booth had to don trash bags as makeshift rain booties due to the runoff from a torrential downpour.

Strode said that the move has been beneficial because not only did it give the festival a favorable venue, but it also has been a boon for downtown businesses.

Which is a significant change from past festivals.

“Before, nobody went downtown during Pioneer Festival weekend. It was like a ghost town,” Strode said. “So I think our businesses have been very pleased that we have been down there. And our restaurants are thrilled because they are busy both days.”

The move downtown has also allowed more craft vendors to set up at the festival, which benefits the Winchester Arts Guild.

“That is where the art guild makes most of their money, that and the Beer Cheese Festival,” Strode said.

There were few electrical outlets for the vendors or musical acts when the festival was at the park.

While downtown, there are several locations to siphon the needed juice to power sound systems and other electric necessities.

One casualty of the move is the annual worship service which will not take place this year.

“For the last two years nobody has come. They would come to the park, but they won’t come downtown. So, we think that people are going to downtown churches,” Strode said.

Regardless of the changes, one thing is still apparent after all these years: the festival is good for Winchester and Clark County.

“It is just a wonderful weekend for our community think of all the dollars that it brings in…You have people eating here, buying gas here, and some people come in and spend two nights,” Strode said.

The Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival always draws a crowd to Winchester during Labor Day Weekend. (Winchester Sun file photo)