The hum of generators and clang of tools rose above an occasional cuss word as the misty scent of glass cleaner and cigarette smoke drifted through Pomona Park.
Playworld employees spritzed windows of concession wagons, hung animals and balloons on game walls, and hosed down neon-colored rides, all to prepare for this tiny Muskegon County town’s biggest gig of the year.
“I can’t think of any other event that draws the community as much as this does,” said Russ Stressman, a member of the Fruitport Lions Club, which hosts the annual six-day festival. “It started from a tiny thing with four or five rides and a couple of booths and turtle races, and that was about it. Now we have literally thousands of people that attend the carnival, and we have the place packed for fireworks on Friday and Sunday.”
Stressman, 69, remembers Fruitport Old-Fashioned Days before they were old-fashioned.
“I can remember, when I was 10 years old, they had turtle races,” he said. “We’d catch turtles in the spring, then keep them in the bathtub until Memorial Day. We’d put the turtles in a ring and have turtle races.”
Stressman now helps organize the Memorial Day weekend event that kicks off at 4 p.m. today.
The festival includes carnival rides, a free petting zoo, juried art show, live music and two fireworks displays.
New this year are horse and carriage rides through downtown from 1-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The cost is $3 per person, $5 per couple or $10 per family.
Also debuting is a juried art show at the northeast corner of Airline Road and Park Street.
Fireworks will blast off at dusk Friday and Sunday, weather permitting.
Saturday’s fun includes a kids’ fishing pond stocked with 1,000 brook trout and a kiddie parade at noon.
Carnival rides run from 4-10 p.m. today and Thursday, 4 p.m. to midnight Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, noon to midnight Sunday, and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday. Wrist bands for unlimited rides cost $20; but they’re $10 today and Thursday.
The event is the major fundraiser for the Fruitport Lions Club. Proceeds go toward $8,000 in annual scholarships for Fruitport High School students, Ramona Park and public safety improvements.
“It’s been over 60 years since we’ve been doing this,” Stressman said. “I can’t think of any other event that draws the community as much as this does.”
Visit www.fruitportlions.com for a complete schedule.