Blissfield River Raisin Festival to commemorate the bicentennial
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Blissfield River Raisin Festival to commemorate the bicentennial

BLISFIELD — The second weekend in July is always a special time for Blissfield.

It’s the weekend when villagers celebrate their hometown with the annual Raisin River Festival, a three-day celebration of carnival rides, food, vendors, events, activities and free stage performances along the banks of the Raisin River.

This year’s festival, which will begin Thursday, July 11 and run through Saturday, July 13 at Bachmayer and Ellis Parks, not only commemorates 40 years of summer festivities in Blissfield, but also pays tribute to Blissfield’s 200th anniversary.

It looks like summer will be jam-packed with events in Blissfield, including a major highlight for the River Raisin Festival and an even more impressive celebration of the village’s bicentennial.

“It’s a pretty cool thing that it’s been four decades since (the festival) started,” said Rick Allen, president of Blissfield’s River Raisin Festival. “We’re starting to see a resurgence of what we had in the past.”

An example of that rebirth is the number of vendors lined up for this weekend. The Bachmayer Park side of the festival will be packed with a variety of artists and craftspeople and additional types of vendors, Allen said. The Ellis Park side of the festival, which includes a carnival area and a weekend softball tournament, also looks set to be packed with vendors and plenty of food options.

For those who don’t know, Bachmayer and Ellis parks are separated by the Raisin River — Bachmayer to the west and Ellis to the east. There are two pedestrian bridges that festival goers can use to get from one park to the other. An arched pedestrian bridge spans the Raisin River in the park system, and another pedestrian bridge runs parallel to US 223.

A new carnival company is bringing its rides and other entertainment to the River Raisin Festival, Allen said. Family Fun Tyme Amusements, which provides carnivals for events in Michigan, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, has been in the village for the past few days and is gearing up for this weekend. Many of the rides are being promoted to a younger audience, Allen said, but there should be plenty of main rides that will delight thrill-seekers of all ages.

Allen said there will be several events during the festival weekend to celebrate Blissfield’s bicentennial.

The annual River Raisin Festival parade on Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. has a Bicentennial Parade theme. It will continue along the same route as in previous years, from the Blissfield Community Schools campus down South Lane Street through downtown to US 223 and onto Depot Street, returning to the school.

Throughout the weekend, vendors are encouraged to decorate their booths in a patriotic red, white and blue scheme. The newly crowned Miss River Raisin Festival, during Friday night’s scholarship program, will walk through the festival grounds this weekend and select the best-decorated vendor booth, with the winner receiving a prize, Allen said.

On Thursday at 7:00 p.m., the Miss Bliss Bicentennial Spirit pageant will take place on the main stage at the pavilion in Bachmayer Park, where women from the Blissfield area, age 70 and older, will compete to be crowned queen of the Blissfield Bicentennial celebration scheduled for later this month, July 27-28. A similar pageant was held 50 years ago, and in 1974, the Blissfield 150th Anniversary Queen was crowned.

Most events on Thursday and Friday start after 6:00 p.m. The last day of the festival, Saturday, begins with a parade and lasts until 11:00 p.m.

Kids’ Corner, located near the Bachmayer Park pedestrian bridge, is sponsored by Bailey Family Chiropractic and will be expanded this year, Allen said. He credits the expansion to the efforts of Nikki Dotson, who brought such attractions to Kids’ Corner as character meet-and-greets, karaoke and bubble parties, free crafts, bouncy castles, a petting zoo and a new sensory table/calming area.

“We’re making an extra effort to provide the kids who come (to the festival) who may have special needs with extra sensory space and a place where they can get away from it all and relax,” Allen said.

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Other attractions for children include a kids’ tractor tug, kids’ archery and Touch-a-Truck fun on Saturday from 12:00 to 16:00.

Weenie racing will return for a second time Saturday at 2 p.m. to the Ellis Park Dog Park, and the duck race — also known as the Captain Joe Gallo Duck Race — will return at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“…We hope to create a high-quality product that everyone can benefit from,” Allen said.

Uckele Health and Nutrition and Blissfield State Bank are the primary sponsors of Friday night’s fireworks show, which will begin at dusk.

Here’s a look at the stage entertainment at the River Raisin Festival. For more information, visit riverraisinfestival.org.

The main pavilion stage

Thursday, July 11

  • 18:30 Baby Blissfield competition winners.
  • 7:00 PM Miss Bliss Bicentennial Spirit Queen election.

Friday, July 12th

  • The 29th annual Miss River Raisin Festival Scholarship Pageant will take place at 6:00 p.m., featuring Miss Michigan and Miss River Raisin Festival 2023 Samantha McGaughy.
  • 21:00-23:00 Metro Soul Band.

Saturday, July 13

  • Blissfield Ministerial Association Concert from 12:00 to 13:30.
  • 2:00 PM – Variety show at the River Raisin Festival.
  • From 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Stealin’ Copper.
  • From 9 to 11 pm. Under the influence of alcohol.

—Contact reporter Brad Heineman at [email protected] or follow him on X, formerly Twitter: twitter.com/LenaweeHeineman.