Grand Rapids reflects on Applebutter Fest following summer's bridge closure


GRAND RAPIDS, OH (WNWO) - A closed down bridge had a small town worried this summer. And this weekend was the moment of truth.

The annual Applebutter fest was held this past Sunday in Grand Rapids. And the good news was the bridge rehab was completed in plenty of time. But NBC 24 wanted to find out if the closure over the summer had any effect on festival turn out.

It’s the main artery into the village.

“It crosses the Maumee river, so it connects the north side to Grand Rapids itself," explains Rebecca Dangelo, the Public Information Officer for ODOT. "So we understand that this is a huge bridge for the area, which is one of the reasons we wanted to make sure we had those hard dates for school and Apple Butter festival.”

The 295 bridge had gotten old and needed an entirely new deck. The construction crews had a lot to do in a short amount of time.

“When we put the contract together, it was a 50 day closure which is a really tight project schedule," said Dangelo. "The contractors were out there round the clock. They worked really hard to get that done.”

Meanwhile, the village held it’s breath. Grand Rapids holds other festivals through the year and is known as “A village for all seasons.” But it’s Apple Butter Festival that is their claim to fame.

“Thankfully, ODOT kept in very good communication with all of us," commented Joe Schroeder, the Director of Marketing for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. "With the chamber, the historical society, and the village. And let us know while there were still some minor things they were patching up, the bridge did open as planned.”

That was back in mid-August. But were there any long lasting impacts? While a few shop workers did comment off camera that they felt turnout may have been lower than in 2016, most everyone seemed pleased with the Sunday’s attendance.

Schroeder said, “I tried to peek out the door quite a bit. From a financial stand point, I can tell you it was very well. Every time that we did look out the door, people seemed to be enjoying themselves.”

The festival is free and open to the public, so there is no way to know the exact turn out. But for a town that normally is home to just under a thousand residents, an estimated 40 to 50-thousand people arrived on Sunday.

While there is still another 369 days until the next Apple Butter Fest, the village is already looking forward to their Christmas open house on November 18th and 19th. Not to mention the over 30 restaurants and shops they have open in their historic district year round.

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