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Blue Tip Festival kicks off Tuesday in Wadsworth

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    Joe Gabrosek, left, and Gene Kovack light the Blue Tip torch to signify the opening of the 2017 Blue Tip Festival in downtown Wadsworth.



WADSWORTH — The 46th annual Wadsworth Blue Tip Festival kicks off Tuesday with a parade expected to draw more than 100 entrants and stretch 2 miles.

The ceremonial lighting of downtown’s 20-foot Blue Tip match also will kick off the five-day celebration, which festival president Mike Leavitt said draws about 20,000 throughout the week each year.

“It’s been a focus of ours the past five years to grow things from sort of a carnival atmosphere into a bigger community event,” he said Sunday. “I think that’s really reflected in our growing proceeds. People also like that you can come, bring your family, and have fun without spending an arm and a leg.”

Leavitt, now in his sixth year as president, said festival proceeds have increased three-fold over the past five years from $10,000 to $30,000. Those funds go toward community organizations such as Meals on Wheels and Wadsworth FISH.

This year’s parade grand marshal, Marian Mochel, was chosen for her lifelong service to the community and in honor of Wadsworth FISH’s 50th anniversary.

FISH is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance regardless of income level. The organization provides Christmas assistance for roughly 100 families each year in the city and Wadsworth Township.

“We try to work with any organization that reaches out to people in need,” Leavitt said. “Our driving force as a committee is to exceed the previous year’s funds. If we do a good job as far as putting on the festival, the end result as far as what’s brought in is usually a success.”

Daily live music will accompany events and attractions like Merchant Alley, a “Toy Story”-themed Kids Land on Wednesday that will include bounce houses, a magic show, and face-painting, and Friday’s half-marathon, 5K and 10K races.

Those races will take place at Art Wright Stadium, 280 Grandview Ave. The 5K and 10K will start at 7:30 p.m. with each requiring $33 for entry and a $2.50 sign up fee. Half-marathons will start at

6:15 p.m. with a $55 entry fee and $3 sign-up fee. Registration for all events ends at 11:30 a.m. Thursday. To sign up, visit

The festival gets its name from the Ohio Match Company, which formerly operated out of the Wadsworth Warehouse at 254 Main St. Established in 1895, it grew into the largest match manufacturing plant in the world, covering 18 acres and producing more than 300 million matches per day. In 1938, the company became the first in the industry to regularly produce reverse-striking matches.

Downtown’s giant match was donated to the city by the warehouse’s current owners, Ohmat Enterprises Inc.

“The company was pretty much the founder of the industrial part of Wadsworth,” Leavitt said. “It was a huge, huge operation. If you watch pretty much any World War II movie you see the guys using Blue Tip matches because you could light them anywhere, out in the rain, wherever. For that time, it was an amazing-size factory.”

On Saturday at 7 p.m., the festival will wind down with a performance from county recording artist and Ohio native Erin Stoll.

“There are so many activities and fun things to do,” Leavitt said. “We’ll probably start closing down streets around 5 p.m. on Tuesday. If you’re coming to Wadsworth out of Medina, Route 57 is definitely the ideal way to use.”

Contact reporter Jonathan Delozier at (330)721-4050 or

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