Volunteers make Community Days happen

Some might think that the dedicated volunteers who spend thousands of hours – yes, thousands – planning and putting on the city’s Community Days activities put their feet up once everything is done. They would be wrong.

Led by Steve Kovach, who also serves on city council, and working under the banner of the nonprofit Community Civic Council of Sheffield Lake, Amy and Jim McFall, Toni Shanahan. Amanda Herritt, Jess Resch, Chuck Holland and Kathy Kovach manage their family responsibilities, jobs and, for some, college classes, along with the myriad tasks required to make the four day celebration of Sheffield Lake a success.

2023 Community Days opened July 20 with great excitement after Kovach successfully secured a new carnival operator. Primetime Carnivals of Florida provided rides for kids and adults, food and games of chance. They are also the ride vendor for the Ohio State Fair.

The opening of Community Days also features a parade. Kovach and Shanahan had recruited more than 50 units to march down Lake Road from Joyce Hanks Community Center to Shoreway Shopping Center. Traditionally, residents and their kids stand along the parade route cheering participants and reaching out for candy thrown to them by marchers including elected officials, school representatives and businesses. Volunteers were scattered along various points on Lake Road awaiting a planned 7 p.m. step off. Mother Nature had other plans and when dark, rain filled clouds and lightening bore down, the parade was canceled by order of the fire and police chiefs. No one was more disappointed than the organizers, Shanahan, in particular, who’d spent nearly five months making hundreds of calls and sending an endless number of emails recruting and organizing hundreds of marchers.

Kovach explained that it would be impossible to reschedule the mammoth parade given safety requirements, including scheduling firefighters and law enforcement officers from local departments along with the county and state law enforcement who both march and provide security.. In addition, many of the parades hundreds of participants would not be available to attend a “make-up” day given work, family travel, sports schedules and other commitments.

With the exception of that glitch – which was beyond volunteers’ control – the thousands that attended the carnival and fireworks seemed happy and dozens took to Facebook to express their appreciation to the volunteers.

Amy McFall and her husband, Jim, have volunteered for Community Days for more than 20 years, following in the footsteps of his parents, Jo Ann and Paul. Amy said she and Jim were dating when they first got involved. Asked why she has continued to volunteer for two decades, she said, “The happy faces make all the hard work and long hours well worth it.“ She added, “It’s a time for fun and gathering and enjoyment. Watching the joy on kids’ faces fuels my desire to continue to do this.”

Shanahan, a resident for more than 20 years, worked with the Kovach’s to organize the parade. After it fell victim to storms that enveloped the area, she summarized her feeling in a single word, “Ugh.” After spending hundreds of hours organizing the parade, she understood the disappointment of those who looked forward to it.

The next day’s weather was perfect for both carnival goers and the large crowd gathered to watch a spectacular fireworks display. Of note, Sheffield Lake-based North Coast Build Design helped sponsor the fireworks, as they have in several recent years. Mayor Dennis Bring expressed his and the community’s appreciation for their donation.

Saturday saw the return of a corn hole tournament at the shopping center. Coordinated by resident Jess Resch, 14 teams participated with Ray Wingate and Brandon Roach capturing the top spot. Terry Daugherty and Jason Barna came in second and AJ Vicente and Tiffany Wingate captured third place. The $10 participant fee was divided among the winners, Resch said.

Also held on Saturday was the first ever city-wide yard sale. Signs pointed the way to homes hoping to make a little money and unload their unwanted items. As a special service to residents, the Mayor opened the city service garage for several hours after the sale concluded so people could bring items that did not sell for either disposal or donation. One of the first residents to arrive at the garage was very pleased with the number of people who had stopped by her house and the money she’d made from sales. She said one visitor claimed to be a “garage sale regular” and told her that he felt Sheffield Lake’s yard sale was far better than other communities.

At the shopping center, people of all ages lined up for rides, while others enjoyed an array of food options, took their chance at some games, or listened to live music.

For the volunteers, observing the fun others had was all worth it. They’re glad the long list of details they needed to handle clearly weren’t on the minds of others. Only they knew about the cable that needed to be run for electricity and water so rides could run and food could be cooked or kept cold; the effort to move into place picnic tables people sat at or the clean up at the shopping center and the boat launch the following Monday – done by McFall after working a full day.

Resch, who is a married mom with two boys, works and attends classes, enjoys volunteering and wishes more would. “If I’m able to plan fun things then at least maybe I can help my hometown plan some events the community can look forward to.”

Mayor Bring said he believes he speaks for many residents who appreciated the time, hard work and dedication these volunteers poured into making Community Days a success. “It’s great these residents don’t hesitate to give of themselves and their time so their neighbors can come together to celebrate Sheffield Lake.” Kovach said planning for 2024 is already underway.