June 29--MISHAWAKA -- What's best about Summerfest?
According to a small sampling of those who turned out Saturday for the annual attraction at Merrifield Park, the cost. Admission is free, as is parking for visitors willing to look for openings on city streets and walk a few blocks.
The fact he didn't have to empty his wallet was particularly appealing to South Bend resident Tom Howlin.
"We also go to 'Fridays at the Fountain'. Do you see a theme here?" he said, smiling as her referenced the free live music attraction in front of the Morris Civic Auditorium in downtown South Bend.
"It's basically free. The price is right."
Howlin, his wife, Joyce, and a friend, Cheryl Osborne, also of South Bend, sat in lawn chairs as they awaited the start of Billy "Stix" Nicks' Motown Dance Party show. They planned to stick around too, they said, for a performance by Petty Profits.
Affordable kiddie attractions and the food were the keys for Mishawaka residents Brenda and Michael Mueller, who had their 3-year-old daughter, Megan, in tow. Munching like her husband on a small bucket of fried vegetables, Brenda, a participant in Saturday morning's 5K run, said the $15 the couple paid for Megan to enjoy the bounce houses was well worth it.
"We like the food and the fact it's keeping her busy for a decent amount of time for not a lot of money," she said.
Prior to a turn around the bounce houses, the family took in the racing pigs.
"She (Megan) thought the piggies were cute," Brenda said.
Another bounce house advocate was Katelynn Fleischman, 7, who seemed unfazed after performing a back flip and falling out of the mouth of a ferocious-looking tiger. Her dad, Rick Fleischman, said the family -- his son, Nick, 12, also was on hand -- was looking forward to the fireworks also.
The one disappointment, he said, was that Summerfest, now a one-day event instead of two, appeared to be downsized from past years. For one thing, there were no rides south of Mishawaka Avenue, he said, not that Katelynn seemed to mind.
There weren't as many vendors as before either, some visitors said. Hillary Thompson, a Mishawaka vendor offering handmade crochet items, said she thought she knew why.
"The 4-H fair put a damper on it," she said, referencing the St. Joseph County Fair that kicked off this weekend and also attracted its share of vendors.
Still, Thompson said she was satisfied with her sales and, like the others, the low cost of Summerfest.
"It's free to get in, and I have four kids," she said.
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