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Published: Wednesday, 7/31/2002

Fayette's Bull Thistle fest goes patriotic


FAYETTE - Patriot Thistles is the theme of the 26th annual Bull Thistle Arts Festival here Saturday, and finding a big weed to enter in the goofy contest that is the festival's trademark should not be a problem despite the hot, dry summer.

“It's just a pretty hardy weed,” said David Jackson, a crop consultant with Witmer & Associates in Gibsonburg, Ohio.

The festival awards garden tools - spray-painted gold - to the owners of the winning thistles, which are judged on height, girth, fiber content of the stalk, and number of blossoms. Last year one winner was more than 12 feet tall, said Ruth Marlatt, a festival organizer. Typically, 15 to 50 thistles are brought to in Normal Grove Park by entrants from Indiana, Michigan, and northwest Ohio. The contest is open to anyone, Mrs. Marlatt said.

The festival, which includes many arts, athletic, and traditional summer carnival events, often draws 2,500 to 3,000 people.

Grand marshal of the parade, which starts at 11 a.m., is Kim Winzeler, a Marine stationed at the Pentagon who graduated from Gorham Fayette High School in the 1970s. The parade is expected to have 60 to 70 units, including a dozen floats, many of which Mrs. Marlatt hoped would use the Patriot Thistles theme.

King and queen of the festival are longtime festival and community arts supporters Don and Grace Sly. Mrs. Sly helped make costumes for the Fayette Fine Arts Group's performance of The Foreigner and has often donned elegant costumes herself to ride a horse sidesaddle in the festival parade. Mr. Sly works in the Fayette Lions Club's milkshake booth at the festival. Prince is Justin White and princess is Olivia Molina, who were picked through a coloring contest for children ages 5 to 10 in the Gorham Fayette school district.

New this year is a bench press competition and children's swimming exercises at the village pool. An afternoon 3-on-3 basketball tournament is scheduled. At least 20 arts, crafts, and food vendors are expected.

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