Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Bands, floats, pols and boats

Crowd-pleasers show off for Cheviot's Harvest Home Parade

By Reid Forgrave
The Cincinnati Enquirer

CHEVIOT - The empty lawn chairs will start appearing this evening in Cheviot, 24 hours before the Harvest Home Parade fills the streets.

Jostling for prime spots is part of the grandest West Side tradition of all.

  The origins of the festival date back nearly two centuries, when Enoch and Ashsah Carson had their first bountiful harvest on their 20-acre plot of farmland in Green Twp. They invited other settlers to give thanks for the harvest by celebrating in a grove near their cabin.

  The first official "Harvest Home Fair" was in 1860 on the Carson land, organized by the newly formed Green Township Harvest Home Association. The organizers - which changed to the Kiwanis Club of Cheviot-Westwood in 1939 - haven't missed holding the festival since then.

By Thursday at 6 p.m., rows of people 10 deep will line the one-mile parade route. Dozens of local politicos, 10 high school bands, 50 floats, handfuls of local businesses and bars, and a huge contingent from the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office will parade until night falls.

"It's just like everything else on the West Side: a tradition that doesn't go away," said Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen, who will drive for his wife, Lisa, a candidate for municipal judge. "It's just like a huge church festival, where you always see someone you know. Only it's four or five times as big."

It's also a time when local officeholders - or aspiring ones - can see and be seen.

"This is the beginning of the political campaigns, and you got all these political folks trying to hustle up votes and get name recognition," said Jack Geiler, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Cheviot-Westwood, which organizes the parade and the accompanying Harvest Home Fair.

But the crowd favorite, organizers say, is the display put on by Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis Jr.

The sheriff's office arsenal includes three mounted patrol horses, a color guard, an inflatable deputy balloon, two 18-foot patrol boats, and two helicopters, towed on a trailer. The choppers will take off at the parade's end.

"We show off everything we got," Leis said.

The parade typically attracts 25,000 people, said fair chairman Ron Dabney, and 20,000 attend the fair.

Said prosecutor Allen: "It's awfully important to a political candidate because if you're not there, the first thing people will say is, 'Why weren't you there?' "


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