In 2005, two young couples from Essex United Methodist Church in Richwood, Ohio wanted to spread the word in their local community about an organization, Heifer International. They were surprised that so few people in their area were familiar with the non-profit group that had been around since the 1940's and was started by Dan West, a native Ohioan.
Essex UMC and their sister church, Central UMC, held the first Heifer Festival in Essex and attendees enjoyed games, a cake walk and some simple food items. $1,850 was raised and was earmarked for Heifer International families that suffered from the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that year.
In 2006, Essex UMC and Central UMC joined with several other United Methodist Churches in the county to form The North Union United Methodist Cooperative.
The original members were Central UMC, Claibourne UMC, Community UMC, Essex UMC, McKendree UMC, Pharisburg UMC, and Richwood First UMC. The Heifer Festival was adopted by the NUUMC as the group's main outreach ministry. The festival expanded in every way and was moved to the Richwood Fairgrounds and $4, 590.50 was raised and donated to Heifer International.
2007's Heifer Festival included a live auction as well as several popular musical groups: The Music Masters, Appalachian Heritage. Justus and the Madriver Mountain Dulcimer Society.
$6, 672.02 was earned from The Heifer Festival but tragically a member of Richwood First UMC and "Heifer Helper" Parker Garwick passed away suddenly in the weeks following the festival. His widow, Susan, suggested that memorials be made to Heifer International so the total amount raised for Heifer that year was $9,209.02
In 2008, the web domain name, www.heiferfestival.org was purchased and The Heifer Festival website was launched.
The festival continued to expand with the addition of agricultural demonstrations, a kids' coloring contest, canine agility and a corn hole tournament. $7,000 was raised for Heifer International.
With 2009 came new agricultural and historical demonstrations including apple pressing, tractors, saw milling, shingle milling, tomahawk throwing, and Native American Indian history. The silent auction had continued to expand and was moved into the larger Fine Arts Building.
The food menu was expanded and free wagon rides were now provided for festival attendees. The weather was blustery and the economy was down but $6, 396.33 was still raised to donate to Heifer International.
2010, saw the start of a favorite activity, "Teddy Bear Surgery", plus more carnival games including a whole section for teens and adults. The kids were excited to see the new large inflatable while their parents enjoyed the expanded silent auction.
Magnetic Springs UMC joined The North Union United Methodist Cooperative and together we raised $7,000 this year to donate to Heifer International.
For the 2011 Heifer Festival, we added a dunking booth where we dunked many prominent central Ohioans. We also added a Pet Parade, Pretty Pet Contest (all animals dressed as Heifer International animals) as well as the "Blessing of the Animals".
We enjoyed a "Kiss the Pig" contest, OSU Extension lectures on healthy and affordable meals plus a fantastic talk by an original Heifer "Sea Faring Cowboy", Bob Heimberger, who spoke of his experiences helping families in 1947.
We donated $9,000 to Heifer International this year!
In 2012, we proudly began our new Heifer Festival Donor Program for businesses and individuals to be recognized for their generous monetary donations to the festival.
Donations of food and personal needs items were collected for local assistance groups as people entered the festival.
We donated $10,000 to Heifer International! Our giving has now topped $55,000!
2013 was another exciting year for us! We hosted our largest auction yet including many collectables donated by generous central Ohio Heifer Festival supporters. This year the vendor program was expanded, and we were glad to offer many exciting agricultural and homemade products available for purchase by our attendees.
The Pretty Pet Contest expanded and awarded more than $200 in prizes plus we hosted our first North Union Elementary attendance program.
The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine partnered up with our Heifer Festival Teddy Bear Surgery and provided us with some "udderly terrific" surgeons.
The Heifer Festival donation program continued to grow and we were able to donate $11,000 after this festival.
2014 was our 10th Annual Heifer Festival and we chose to change venues to have access to more indoor space for our many expanded activities. We moved the festival to the North Union High School where there was a track meet and a football game on the same day. This made for some tricky traffic situations but the vendors appreciated the larger crowds, and we were able to educate new families about Heifer International that had never been to our festival in the past.
Our Ag Demos were expanded again this year to include butter making, corn shelling and grinding, rope making, apple pressing and a few antique tractors.
We donated $9,600 to Heifer International this year to take our total to more than $75,500.
In 2015, we made another venue change over to the "kid friendly" North Union Elementary School in Richwood. We had great weather and expanded our canine activities to include Canine Good Citizenship evaluations. We brought back our wonderful ag demos from 2014 and even a few more. Our crafters and vendors portion of the festival also grew substantially this year. Tri-Rivers increased their involvement and smoked our pork for us, baked pies, plus Chef Sheila Hamm did some special culinary demonstrations.
For the first time we also wanted to count attendees so we handed out free wristbands. The number on the band was used for silent auction bidding, registering for the coloring contest, and door prizes every 30 minutes. We had over 1,000 people attend the 2015 festival.
We had a few more expenses this year but we were still able to donate $8,000 to Heifer International making our total donations over $83,000.
2016 was another fantastic year for our festival. We had around a thousand visitors to the festival, and received several large donations allowing us to donate $12,500 to donate to Heifer. People continued to enjoy our large silent auction, many activities, crafters, vendors and games. With our donation this year our total is over $96,000 that we have donated to help fight hunger and poverty!
Our largest festival to date was in 2017. We had about 1,200 attendees that enjoyed our many activities and entertainment this year. We added an Art & Crafts area and Whit's Frozen Custard of Marysville joined our efforts and donated 100% of their profits back to the event. Tri-Rivers of Marion continued to be a huge supporter of the festival by volunteering to help with games and and the Culinary Arts chef and students providing and serving all of our great food and drinks.
Despite the free or very low cost activities, we still managed to earn $14,000 allowing us to topple the $100,000 mark. Our total for Heifer International donations is now $110,000.
2018 proved to be another great year with large crowds, great weather and joyful giving. We hosted great musical groups, Shine FM and other local entertainers. We welcomed more local crafters and vendors than before and continued to educate our visitors with many great agricultural demonstrations. Tri-Rivers Career Center's Culinary Arts students and chefs prepared and served festival favorites like "Chicken-n-Moodles", pulled pork and delicious pies. The traditional activities like Teddy Bear Surgery, storytime, games and live animals seem to grow each year in popularity. This year we had our largest turnout for the Pretty Pet Contest and all participants went away with great prizes for their pets.
Sadly, we also suffered a great loss. One our beloved treasurers and devoted "Heifer Helper", Janet Markin, suffered a massive stroke a few weeks after the festival and passed away. We were all shocked and saddened by this sudden loss and cannot express how sad were are to have lost such a devoted and special person. This community was priviledged to have Janet and will miss her greatly.
We were able to donate $10,500 to Heifer International, in memory of Janet, making our 14-year total $120,500.