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Heritage Fair No. 2 in Community Celebrations Contest Nationwide

Dundalk's Independence Day celebration won $1,000 in the contest sponsored by Johnsonville.

Joan Jett performed at the 2012 Heritage Fair. Photo by Marge Neal
Joan Jett performed at the 2012 Heritage Fair. Photo by Marge Neal
While many Dundalkians believe the community's annual Heritage Fair is second to none, the Independence Day festival finished second in a nationwide contest to name America's best community celebration.

Johnsonville, the contest's sponsor, announced the results of the online popular vote contest Tuesday.

Wayne Stock, based in North Creek, NY, edged out Heritage Fair and won the contest's top prize of $10,000.

Heritage Fair won $1,000 for its top 10 finish.

"The Dundalk Heritage Fair came in a close second with over 4,700 votes—a true reflection of Dundalk’s close-knit community," contest spokeswoman Annie Rees said in an email to Patch.

She declined to disclose the number of votes received by Wayne Stock.

St. Helena resident Dolores Bell submitted the event in the contest. Heritage Fair was named one of 20 finalists for the popular vote period that ran from May 23 to June 14.

"We're thrilled with the news," fair chairman Joe Falbo said Tuesday. "We owe a debt of gratitude to Dolores Bell for submitting our name."

Bell said she has never been involved with the organization of the fair; she has just always enjoyed the the group's labor of love.

Her first child was born in 1976, the first year of the fair that was supposed to be a one-time-only affair to celebrate the nation's bicentennial.

"I've always taken my children and we've very much enjoyed the fair over the years," she said. "This was just my way of giving a little back."

Asked how she heard of the contest, Bell said she receives Johnsonville emails because of the good recipes the company shares.

"One email mentioned the contest and I entered Heritage Fair and then didn't think much more about it," she said Tuesday.

Knowing the contest was being held nationwide, Bell said she thought the chances were "slim" that Heritage Fair would advance in the competition.

"And then just a couple of weeks later, I got an email telling me Heritage Fair was one of the top 20 finalists and we started putting the word out to as many people as we could," she said.

Across Greater Dundalk, networking went in to high gear, with individuals, businesses and community organizations spreading the word of the contest through newsletters, media reports, social networks like Facebook and Twitter and through old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

While Bell is disappointed Heritage Fair didn't win the grand prize, she is excited that the community pulled together and supported the effort.

"People outside of this community make fun of us sometimes, but they don't know how tight-knit this community is and how everyone pulls together to support a good cause," she said.
 
St. Helena Community Association President Shirley Gregory said people were quick to jump on the Heritage Fair bandwagon once word of the contest got out.

"Everybody I talked to said they were putting it on Facebook," she said Tuesday. "Everybody pitched in to spread the word."

Voters could vote once per day per email address, and Gregory said she was kept busy casting votes for five different email accounts she maintains.

Falbo said the fair is struggling to overcome $87,000 in losses from last year's event after a storm struck the area. Many areas were without electricity for longer than a week after the thunderstorm that struck Friday night of the three-day event.

"Our beer sales were way off because we didn't have any ice," he said. "No one had any ice; the companies were without electricity too."

The cash prize is welcome and will be added to the general fund that pays for the fair and its many activities, including major entertainment acts like this year's Three Dog Night and Jefferson Starship.

"Every little bit helps, and we're really grateful for people voting for us," he said.
LuAnn Meyer June 25, 2013 at 04:02 PM
I say good for you Miss Gregory. I for one did vote. I think she should be a parade grand marshal!

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