People step up to keep Crothersville festival going

Having lived in Crothersville for most of her life, Erica Gorbett is familiar with the town’s annual Red, White and Blue Festival.

While she likes the attractions, booths and food, she said her favorite part is instilling the same traditions in her children that were instilled in her.

She said she has yet to miss a festival or parade in her 35 years, and her children have been there every year of their lives, too.

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“The festival for me has been years of sitting on my grandparents’ front porch eagerly awaiting the parade, listening to family members reminiscing about parades and festivals from years gone by,” she said. “The festival for me is not just an event, but a time when families, community members and friends get together and share in a small-town tradition.”

So when she recently read a newspaper article about the committee planning to end the festival after this year, she was sad and felt called to do something.

“I have wanted to get involved for a while now. Knowing that this year was going to be the last year was the push that I needed to get involved,” Gorbett said. “I hated to hear that this was going to be the last year, and I thought about how it was going to affect the families, especially the children in the community, and it broke my heart. I don’t want the festival to be another thing lost in our town.”

After talking to longtime festival organizer Sherry Bridges, Gorbett began working to recruit community members to keep it going.

The 44th annual Crothersville Red, White and Blue Festival is set for June 6, 7 and 8, and the salute to veterans and Old Glory will continue in 2020.

“Sherry was open and receptive to my call. When we first spoke, she seemed grateful that someone was willing to step in and try to save the festival,” Gorbett said. “The first question I asked her was if she thought the festival could be saved. She thinks that it can be with more involvement and support from the community.”

Bridges, who has helped with the festival for 36 years and been chairwoman for 24 years, said three years ago, the committee began thinking the festival would have to come to an end. That was due to lack of funds and businesses supporting the festival, she said.

“We have really struggled to balance our budget and to get some great entertainment and some kids’ games and keep our costs down,” Bridges said.

“If it’s not in your budget, you can’t do it, and then if you don’t do it, people are disappointed,” she said. “Not everybody understands it’s like running your own household budget. If you don’t have money to go out to eat, you don’t go out to eat, so if we don’t have money for extra entertainment, then we can’t do it.”

Fortunately, Gorbett stepped up to see that the festival continues.

“I think it’s exciting that it’s going to continue the tradition of honoring your veterans,” Bridges said. “Crothersville throws a big party, and we just want everybody to come out and enjoy yourselves and partake of porkburgers and listen to music and visit with your family.”

At this year’s festival, Gorbett plans to shadow Bridges to learn what it takes to pull off the three-day event.

“It will help me tremendously because Sherry is the brains behind the event now,” Gorbett said. “With all the experience she has gained over the years, the wealth of information she carries will greatly help jump-start me and guide me in the right direction. … By shadowing Sherry, it will give me the opportunity to familiarize myself with the whole process from start to finish.”

After this year, some of the current festival committee members plan to retire. Gorbett said she hopes some will want to stay and help beyond this year. She’s also working on recruiting other people to help.

“I would like to retain old members as well as some new faces so that we can combine old ideas with the new,” she said. “I’m also planning to travel and visit other small-town festivals and hopefully reach out to them and learn all the different perspectives on how neighboring towns run and manage their own festivals. I believe this input could be a big help for our festival as well as the committee and for me as the new director.”

She said she’s excited to get to work on the 45th festival.

“I am looking forward to working with all the community members that have expressed interest in being on the committee and helping with the festival,” Gorbett said. “I am confident that once we put our minds and resources together, not only can we save the Red, White and Blue Festival, but we can build and expand upon what Sherry has already built.

“I’m excited about brainstorming and implementing new ideas and seeing how far we can go,” she said. “It will be an exciting time.”

The festival has become a big part of the community, and it’s a great way to honor veterans, current service members and the nation’s flag, Gorbett said.

“Both the children and the adults in our community look forward to the festival because it symbolizes the end of a school year,” she said. “Our festival in many ways is an official kickoff to a summer of fun times, new memories and connecting with old and new friends.”

Gorbett also has personal connections to the festival because her grandparents, mother and other family members live in town.

“One of the biggest ties I have to the festival is my grandfather, who served in the Navy during the Korean War,” she said. “Now that he is gone, the meaning of the festival has changed for me. It’s not just a small-town festival. It’s a way for me to personally recognize the sacrifices and contributions he and all our servicemen have made for our country. The American flag represents so much, and because the festival was first organized around Flag Day, the meaning behind it still speaks to my heart.”

Gorbett encourages anyone interested in helping with next year’s festival to reach out.

“An event like this takes community involvement, and I would like to see more come forward. Even if it’s just passing on fundraising, event or activity ideas, their input would be appreciated,” she said.

“I also want to say a big ‘thank you’ to Sherry and the rest of the committee members, current and past, for doing an amazing job on the festival for all these years,” she said. “I just hope that I am able to fill their shoes.”

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Anyone interested in helping organize the Crothersville Red, White and Blue Festival beyond this year’s event may contact Erica Gorbett through or her own Facebook page. People also can request to join the Save the RWB Facebook page.

For those without Facebook, email Gorbett at [email protected].