Wayne – It started as a way to commend area seniors with a free event, but since its beginning in 2004, Elderfest has gotten, what committee member Karissa Hays calls a “facelift.” Renamed to Boomerfest, the event sought not only to change its name but to open up its recognition for the next generation of community elders, the baby boomers. Honoring those who paved the way for younger generations is something Hays is passionate about.
“I think it’s important to remember who we are where we came from and it’s easy to think about what we’re doing and how we’re doing things new and changing our community, but we wouldn’t be anywhere without our seniors,” Hays said.
Boomerfest nearly didn’t happen this year. At last year’s Elderfest, it was announced that 2016’s would be the last. The event had moved from an all-day event, to solely a dance, and then was ending. That’s when Hays said past committee members approached members of the community about keeping the tradition alive and the new committee made up of Hays, Kirby Hall, KimBerly Hansen, Burt Heithold, Dan Miller, Hilda Pearson, Leslie Schulz and Sarah Peitz came together to organize Boomerfest.
At first, the task seemed daunting to Hays.
“I thought, this is going to be a lot of work and a lot of time and a lot of fundraising,” Hays said.
Luckily, State Nebraska Bank, Hasemann Funeral Home, Careage, Wayne State College and Providence Medical Center stepped up to be corporate sponsors, allowing the committee to book bands. Other area businesses and private citizens also came forward to help.
“We’re excited that the community is on board with supporting this event,” Hays said.
Boomerfest, held at the Wayne City Auditorium this year featured vendor booths and a health and craft fair in the morning. This is the first time a craft fair has been part of the festivities. In the past, organizers didn’t want participants to spend money during the event, but times, like those in attendance, change.
“What we’ve heard from the baby boomers is that they want to buy products; they want to see things they can purchase,” Hays said.
After the morning fairs, there was a break in which attendees were encouraged to visit downtown Wayne.
“We want people to come and enjoy a free event but we also want to boost our own community,” Hays said. “Our seniors made it the way it is and have helped us grow it and we want to continue to grow that.”
In the afternoon and evening those in attendance were treated to the sounds of the Burt Heithold Band and Iowa Rock n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame inductees, The Senders. Snacks were provided and the Wayne Eagles Club sponsored a cash bar.
With Boomerfest getting its official first year out of the way, the committee is already looking toward next year.
“We’ll need to start talking right away about our entertainment for the next year, but I think now that we’ve got one year under our belts now as a committee, we’re going to be set up well for next year,” Hays said.