Celebrating community: Another Troutarama in the books

BALDWIN — With the Troutarama festival interrupted for the past two years — the first time due to flooding in 2019, the second due to COVID-19 — event organizers, community members and visitors welcomed the festival back in a big way this past weekend.

Fred Olson, chairperson of Baldwin Troutarama, Inc., expressed how glad he was Troutarama was able to make a comeback this year and continue a Baldwin tradition which has drawn people from all over since 1957.

"On the Saturday of Troutarama in 2019, the parade and other festivities were shut down because of the flooding, the same flood that washed out the 8th Street Bridge," Olson explained. "It was the first time in 63 years we didn't have a parade, and then COVID. It is huge to get back. I'd like to think of how Blessing of the Bikes is to spring, Troutarama is to summer in Baldwin; bringing people into our community and helping the businesses. I hope people enjoy it."

From contests, live entertainment, rides and numerous activities and attractions, there was fun to be had for people of all ages.

Kids, and kids at heart, enjoyed the carnival rides and games, including Baldwin resident Clarence Vicent, who was impressed with the ferris wheel, which he said was his favorite ride. In his 96 years, he enjoyed its spinning heights for the first time during Troutarama 2018.

On Thursday evening, the Little King and Queen contest at Wenger Pavilion was a time for area children to shine, and exhibit their skills and talents. This year's Little Queen crown went to Donna Harris, who had the audience rolling with laughter with the jokes she recited. Justin Verhulst, who was crowned Little King, wowed the audience with cleaning his bird cage — with his pet bird in it — while counting to 10 in Spanish.

Organizer Deborah Smith-Olson thanked all the children for their effort and involvement, and said each contestant was to receive a big bag of prizes for their participation.

"The Troutarama Committee thanks you for making this day a lot of fun," Olson said.

People lined up on the sidewalks downtown to cheer participants in the kids and pet parade, and an impressed crowd gathered at the grounds near the Lake County Historical Museum to watch draft horse teams display their power during a horse pull.

For Trisha Shoemaker, who opened up Shoey's Log Bar this summer, her first Troutarama as a business owner in downtown Baldwin was a great time. She even added to the fun by hosting live music performed by Aaron Rohde, on Thursday evening.

"We had a successful year one at Troutarama," Shoemaker said. "We hope everyone had as much fun as we did, and we are looking forward to making these Troutarama memories year after year."

On Friday and Saturday mornings, young people got to continue a tradition their parents and grandparents tried their hands at decades ago - the youth fishing derby at the trout ponds. Kids gleefully jumped and smiled as the fish they caught would squiggle out of their hands onto the grass.

On Saturday, more contests continued with a 5K run and walk, and several area baseball teams competing in all-day tournaments.

The Grand Parade was a huge hit with many entries. The procession began with Sheriff Rich Martin in his squad car, followed by the sheriff explorers, many area businesses, agencies and community groups. The town was packed full of people lining Michigan Avenue, cheering each entry, and fully enjoying themselves despite the looming rain showers. Children chased after candy as it was thrown.

The Grand Marshal was in memory of the late LeeAnn Russell, a beloved and active resident of Baldwin and business owner at the Fabric Peddler. The float in her memory displayed a large painted quilt.

County-wide, groups like the Mid-Michigan Idlewilders took part in the parade, and the Idlewild Dance Group gave a stunning, spirited performance at the sound-booth, as they did Friday evening at the Wenger Pavilion. Oxy, the mascot from Irons Area Tourist Association also joined the parade — a child nearby delightedly pointing to Oxy, saying, "He just waved to me."

Toward the tail-end of the parade, area fire department trucks proceeded down Michigan Avenue, followed by the booming sound of the famous Scottville Clown Band echoing down the street, playing such tunes as "Basin Street Blues, and "There'll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," as well as many other familiar favorites.

Hersey resident, Patty Page, who grew up in Baldwin in the Garske family, comes back each year to gather with family and enjoy the festivities at Troutarama.

"I was very impressed with the parade," she said. "I never remember so much candy being given out."

After the parade, the beer tent was packed full of people merrymaking and cheering on the Scottville Clown Band, who gave yet another dynamic performance, as they also did Thursday evening. Others braved the rain showers, which eventually cleared up, to watch their firefighter heroes throughout the local area battle it out with a hose.

Another Troutarama has gone down in the books - filling the pages with memories and smiles.