SALEM - Visitors to this weekend's Salem International Festival can expect a multi-cultural array of entertainment, whether it's the comedy stylings of a juggling ventriloquist, or the sounds of Celtic, German or Latino music filling the air.
The Salem Retail and Business Association and Salem Area Chamber of Commerce are finalizing plans for the festival aimed at celebrating the many cultures in the city, with a wide variety of ethnic foods to be offered, childrens' games and activities, a vendor's area and stage performances highlighting different cultures.
The event kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday with Mayor Jerry Wolford opening the ceremonies and Salem High School choir director Attila Samu singing the "Star-Spangled Banner." All activities will take place in the municipal lots off of Pershing Street and Penn Avenue. Opening ceremonies will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Salem resident Dr. Michael Traina will serve as master of ceremonies, assisted by city Councilwoman Rita O'Leary.
Comedian ventriloquist/juggler Mike Hemmelgarn will take the stage for two shows Friday, one at 5:30 p.m. and one at 7:45 p.m. His shows feature a zany cast of characters, from Butterball the paranoid turkey to a hillbilly known as Cooter and Rosie, a 92-year-old former high-fashion model described as saucy, according to a flyer about his show. Besides the comedy ventriloquism, he also juggles, with a bowling ball listed as one of the items.
"This guy is hysterical and he's really, really good," Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Audrey Null said. "He's been here before as part of the Jubilee and was very well-received."
She said he'll also be at the festival on Saturday as fill-in entertainment.
Also on the stage Friday for a return performance this year will be the singing sisters known as Maidens IV, a band offering Celtic and Folk music with a variety of instruments and four-part harmony on vocals. The quartet is made up of Havilah Justice, Heather Justice Mantel, Abigail Justice and Tabitha Justice.
Null said the crowd loved them last year.
"They're very good. They play all over Ohio and they're very popular at a lot of festivals," she said.
Their shows will be presented at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Friday.
The entertainment on Saturday will kick off at 3:30 p.m. with some musical selections by the cast of Salem Community Theatre's Fiddler on the Roof, which will also perform during the Grande Parade. The group will finish the evening with its 8 p.m. performance at SCT.
All fall sports teams at Salem High School have been invited to take part in the Meet The Quakers event at 4 p.m. at the stage, with the SHS pep band also coming, for a mini-pep rally.
The entertainment will move to the streets for the Grande Parade at 6 p.m., moving west on State Street from Union Avenue, turning north on Ellsworth Avenue and disbanding at Second Street. Null said about 80 units are signed up.
The stage entertainment will resume at 7:15 p.m. with Grupo Latino, a group of friends who perform for church and community events, including the Spanish Mass at St. Paul Catholic Church in Salem, with selections from Mexico, Guatemala, Equador, Chile and other Central American countries. The band includes Efrain Ruano and Adrian and Christian Labra and they'll be joined by Salem resident Joe McKim, who serves as the musical director at St. Paul and at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Leetonia.
A German band led by former Salem High School band director John Krauss will round out the entertainment at 8:15 p.m., featuring local people who play German music at area festivals.
The parade this year will follow the theme "Celebrating Salem's Heritage & Freedom" besides paying tribute to World War II veterans. At least eight World War II veterans have contacted the chamber about riding in the parade.
The Fun Factory will offer childrens' activities, including a dunk tank, pony rides, bounce house and climbing wall. There will also be vendors in the vendors area.
To add to the festivities, the Salem Historical Society will offer tours in the Quakertown Trolley of Salem's Underground Railroad homes at 4 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The museum at the corner of Broadway and Pershing will also be open from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Jeanne Martinelli, docent of the Salem Historical Society's Freedom Hall, will dress as a Salem Quaker to tell the stories about the Underground Railroad in 1856 and the abolitionist movement in Salem.
More than 100 slides showing images from inside the homes will be shown on a screen inside the trolley as it travels through the city, since the homes are private residences and aren't accessible. Each tour takes an hour with a cost of $10 per person. Pre-sale reservations are encouraged due to the limited seating by calling Mary Ellon Mayor at 330-337-3035.
Null said residents should watch for the Quakertown Crier holding a sign downtown beginning Thursday to promote the International Festival. He'll be standing and walking on the corner by the chamber building at Lincoln Avenue and State Street.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at email@example.com