News Column

Of hashtags, queens and roaming characters

August 4, 2014

By Tim Cain, Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.

Aug. 04--The impossible has happened once again. As we wake, downtown Decatur has changed back from the playground for thousands to the everyday working environment it is most of the year, save the first weekend in August.

But one question that needs to be asked: If downtown can support a dozen Thai chicken grill sellers in one weekend (at least that's how many it felt like), can't we also have just one Thai street vendor year-round somewhere?

Here are some of one person's memorable things from this year's 29th annual Decatur Celebration.

BEST PERFORMANCE ART -- Hannah Wolfe, at Saturday's Heinkel's hot dog eating contest.

Macon County Fair Queen Wolfe was among the competitors in the "celebrity" portion of the event. But she entered with a twist.

While the other entrants were bedecked in white Heinkel's T-shirts, Wolfe was wearing a dress, and had on her crown and sash. She was accompanied by Junior Miss Emma Dalke. Dalke was carrying a fan, Wolfe a small satchel and a silver tray.

As the contest began and competitors were attempting to devour as many as three dogs at a time, Wolfe pulled out a knife and fork and began daintily eating nibbles of hot dog. Dalke fanned her. Taking one of the huge Styrofoam glasses filled with water, Moore emptied a small amount into a wine glass and sipped. At one point, Wolfe pulled out a compact and began applying makeup.

Willie Harms won the celebrity contest with 11 dogs. Wolfe consumed one. Or one-half, actually. She didn't eat the bun: too many carbs.

PROJECT: HASHTAG -- After all the years of Twitter and hashtags, we can't seem to settle on a social media hashtag for the event.

We at the Herald & Review tried #dceleb for years, but it never caught on. #DC00 (with the '00' representing the year) seemed to be a winner last year. But this year, #dc14 was anemic. #DC2014 was also used by a couple of people this year.

#DC00 is also favored by a religious camp that takes place the first weekend in August. And #DC2014 was also being used by the Dadakan Cup, a futsal competition in Indonesia. (For lack of a better description, "futsal" is a sort of indoor soccer.)

We're industrious folks. We should be able to solve this. Maybe next year.

LET'S VOTE -- My favorite moment of the weekend? Sunday morning, a family/group of about a dozen people of assorted ages gathered outside the William Street entrance for Celebration.

"Who votes food first, then rides?" was asked, and some hands shot up. "Rides first, then food?" More hands.

This is a democracy. Unless mom or dad held dictatorlike veto power.

LET THEM ROAM -- One of the things that always made Decatur Celebration special for me before it went away was the roaming characters.

Some were fantastic. More than a decade later, Marx Brothers lookalikes' antics bring a smile. And it's not as though the performers had to be fantastic. Sometimes, it was enough to just be able to say, "Wow, that person really looks a lot like ..." and finish the sentence with "Marilyn Monroe" or "Whoopi Goldberg" or "Paul McCartney."

Costs gradually eliminated the lookalikes. Or, as veteran Celebration observers might put it, the event went from having the actual Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick to a lookalike to nothing.

But characters show up for the red carpet portion of the 21 Film Fest. Commercial characters sometimes make the parade, or wander briefly. And this year, Theatre 7 and Richland's "Spamalot" crew provided some special experiences for a few folks young and old. Cameras were a regular feature any time characters were available.

A return of characters would be welcome, and potentially bring some of that truly bizarre feel the event has been known to have.

Celebration producer Lori Sturgill said Sunday that a return was a possibility. Here's hoping.|(217) 421-6908


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