At risk of being stripped of my membership in the Herscher Chamber of Commerce, and possibly even citizenship privileges in the Village of Herscher, I’m going to say a few things about Labor Day.
I’ve always been amazed with how such a small community can host such a large celebration. Every year, folks throughout the community—and beyond—pitch in to make the celebration successful. Unfortunately, the celebration burns up an excessive amount of volunteer energy in which could be put to use more beneficially in other in other areas.
As we all know, Labor Day begins with a huge parade which strings through town entertaining as many as 10,000—and maybe even more. Following the parade, the town and its volunteer force plays hosts to this huge crowd. We feed them and entertain them until about 10 o’clock that night.
Herscher is well-known for this big celebration, and the festival indeed helps keep our community alive.
Over the years, many longtime Chamber members—about the only ones who attend Chamber meetings—have stressed the importance of keeping the Herscher Homecoming a “one day” celebration.
But since the weekend Centennial celebration of 1982, the Herscher Homecoming has never returned to that one-day agenda.
Each year, the celebration creeps farther into the weekend. Softball and volleyball tournaments, the Hare & Tortoise Race, and the Lions Club dance have become traditional events for Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Last year, the queen and princess contest was hosted on Sunday evening, as will be the case in 1989. Also added to the celebration this year will be a Sunday night “Cruise Night” featuring a caravan of classic cars.
Before this trend continues, somebody ought to blow the whistle.
Every time the celebration is expanded, it means more volunteer hours, not just on the day itself, but in the weeks of planning which precede the event. Newly added events can potentially spread that volunteer workforce out to the point of being overloaded.
Herscher’s Labor Day Celebration is 69 years old because the Chamber has always kept it manageable.
I’m not suggesting that the celebration be abolished, and I think it’s great to have more activities on Sunday. But as more events are added to Sunday’s agenda, the Labor Day load on Monday ought to be lightened.
The typical Labor Day Celebration usually stretches past 10 PM on Monday.
At that point, the clean-up process begins. And the clean-up continues early the next morning. By 8 AM you see hardly a trace of the celebration.
As the celebration creeps farther into the weekend, the Chamber should consider (next year) cutting back on Monday night. For example, if four hours of activities for Sunday evening are planned, eliminate four hours from the celebration on Monday night. In other words, the party’s over at 6 o’clock on Monday. This would give volunteers a chance to get a head start on the clean-up, and still get home at a reasonable hour.
Cutting a few hours from the celebration on Monday night would also be a service to the community. The following day is a school day, and parents would appreciate having their children home a little earlier that night. And for those who have spent the day in the beer tent, an earlier last call makes for a safer drive home. Homeowners in that neighborhood would also appreciate turning off the spigots a little earlier since bladders tend to get more uncontrollable when darkness sets in.
With an earlier closing time on Monday evening, both the volunteer and the celebrant would feel much better when the alarm clock sounds on Tuesday morning.
Herscher hosts the longest continuing Labor Day Celebration in the area. And if the Chamber of Commerce continues its longtime policy of keeping this celebration “manageable” the celebration will continue for many years to come.
But if this festival grows beyond its means and becomes too much to handle, the tradition will surely die.