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SummerFest ‘best to date’

SummerFest ‘best to date’
SummerFest ‘best to date’
Grilled edibles, below, wait for customers at last weekend's SummerFest, which also featured arts and crafts booths, entertainment, a tractor pull and a Kidz Zone. Above, Kenny Maasberry of Evansville competes Friday night in the Power Pull. The Power Pull was cut short Saturday due to rain. Photos by Brandon Mullens (click for larger version)

In its 11th year, SummerFest, presented by Lucas Oil Products, had high expectations to live up to this past weekend at the Harrison County Fairgrounds, and it didn’t disappoint, despite Saturday night’s stormy weather.
The festival, formerly named Cockadoodle Days, pulled in 5,000 to 6,000 people Friday night and Saturday before the rain arrived, Donn Blank, chairman for nine of the past 11 years of the festival, said.
‘Every year it gets better and better, and I enjoy every minute of it,’ Blank said. ‘According to the Boy Scouts, they parked more cars than ever before, and we think there would have been more people Saturday if it did not rain.’
There were 35 vendors who sold everything from knives and candles to arts and crafts. Festival committee member Derek Crawley said they all claimed to fare well and would like to return for future SummerFests.
‘I was told by some food vendors that sales were up from last year and they’re looking forward to next year,’ Crawley said.
New this year were children’s inflatables, provided by a new company, in the Kidz Zone. They included a monster truck slide that stood more than 20 feet tall. Also, the Safari Adventure attracted children with its pop-ups, lion tunnel, lion seat and a secret cabin. But those with a competitive streak were most likely on the Ice Mountain Rock Wall. The object was to race up the 18-foot-tall ‘mountain’ and brag about how bad they beat their brother or sister in the race.
Those seeking some action-packed fun could find it in UFO Laser Unit. Inside the dome-shaped UFO were maze walls to conceal participants who could play as individuals or as members of a team. Each player had a laser gun that tallied the number of shots fired and tracked how many shots hit the ‘enemy.’
‘Kidz Zone was a huge success,’ Blank said. ‘The kids really seemed to enjoy the rides, and I think more families came out due to the advertising and word of mouth.’
The Midwest Region Old Capitol Power Pull was a big hit Friday and early Saturday night, according to Blank.
‘Attendance was up both nights; however, Saturday was rained out about a half hour into the event,’ he said. ‘Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League puts on a class show.’
Pull results can be found online at www.propulling.com.
The beer garden also was a popular spot at SummerFest, which in its new location this year provided air conditioning.
Each year, SummerFest, Harrison County’s largest fundraising festival, selects a child to raise money for; this year’s recipient was 4-year-old Aidan Kruer, who suffered a severe state of oxygen deprivation at birth.
When he was 12 months old, Aidan was diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, which means his legs are extremely tight and he is unable to move normally.
‘We were informed that Aidan’s brain damage was severe and that we would be lucky to have Aidan breathe on his own, be able to swallow, speak, hear or see normally and that we were most likely looking at cerebral palsy,’ Anthony Kruer, Aidan’s father, said. ‘He was able to breathe, hear and take a bottle normally when we brought him home. He could not sit up on his own until he was almost 2.’
Aidan’s father and mother, Michele Kruer, are nurses at Jewish Hospital and also have a 14-year-old daughter, Avery, who also has type-1 diabetes and requires insulin.
Now, Aidan can only crawl for mobility; he cannot speak, but he babbles like an infant would, Michele said.
‘He does occasionally say words so we know he has the ability; he just hasn’t been able to organize it yet,’ she said. ‘I will tell you that he can work an iPad better than I can.’
Aidan attends the Kids Center in Louisville three days a week, has physical therapy three days a week, occupational and speech two days a week and also attends the special education preschool at North Harrison Elementary School during the school year.
The Kruers started fund-raising for Aidan when he was 1-1/2 after they took him to many medical facilities and were having trouble paying for the uncovered cost of assistive devices, therapies and surgical procedures.
‘Anthony and I learned to swallow our pride very quickly and just decided to let people help us,’ Michele said. ‘We have been blessed a thousand-fold and are so humbled.’
SummerFest raised money for Aidan and his family through a silent auction, coozie sales and donation bowls.
‘During the festival, a gentleman presented a committee member with a box that contained $300,’ Blank said. ‘This kind man stated he had lost his wife several years ago, heard about Aidan on the radio and decided to go and collect some money.’
The big fundraiser was the Uncapped 5K Run/Walk that took place Saturday morning.
‘Around 110 people ran or walked, which was double compared to last year,’ Blank said.
When the last walker completed the course, the event was not over. Instead, the runners and walkers celebrated as they watched Aidan walk across the finish line in his gait trainer to show he wants to walk, too.
The Uncapped event raised $7,000 and, according to Blank, total proceeds from the weekend is more than $10,000.
‘This past weekend was full of blessings,’ Michele said. ‘Our community has been awesome, and we are proud to live here.’
Aidan is expected to have surgery that will sever some of the nerves at the base of Aidan’s spinal cord to help diminish the spasticity in his legs, which is expected to improve his mobility. The prognosis for Aidan is that he will be able to independently walk with a walker or arm crutches, his mother said.
‘We met a paramedic at the festival whose son also has CP and had the exact same surgery two years ago and is now walking and talking, both of which he was struggling to do before the surgery. It lifted our spirits,’ Michele Kruer said.
Blank described the festival as ‘by far the best festival to date, with exception of the rain on Saturday.’
New members are welcome to join the committee, which will meet in a couple weeks to talk about future changes, Blank said.

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