Mega Festival kicks off this week

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 1, 2003

With the kickoff of the Tri-State Mega Festival & Fair only three days away, the excitement comes through in the voice of event organizer Rick Clark when he talks about all the hard work it has taken.

"I do not think people realize how big this is going to be," Clark said. "All along, we wanted to make it so large that it would be talked about around the country. And it has."

From June 4 through 8, the Ironton Commerce Center, the former Honeywell field located at Third and Lorain streets, will become a ride-filled, brightly colored fair extravaganza that organizers hope will provide sights and sounds enjoyable to everyone as well as provide an economic boost to the city.

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"We want to do this for the betterment of the whole community and to try to change Ironton for the better," Clark said. "Maybe this way we can keep everything from going across the bridge."

Clark and his fellow organizers have lined up a variety of attractions including enough musical acts of all genres to fill two stages, nearly 200 arts and crafts vendors, a planetarium, a circus, a laser light show, a rave, fair games and rides, NASCAR displays, alligator wrestlers, a petting zoo, a wild west show, car, truck and motorcycle shows, magic shows and much more.

All along it was intended to be a family event that has something for everyone, he said.

"From the ages one to 120, you will find something you like going on at the festival," Clark, the owner of Clark's Nursery in Coal Grove,

said. "The problem with many of the local events such as Summer Motion is that it targets only one group. Ours is geared towards everybody, and that is why ours will be a huge success."

Recent additions to the event include an interactive Kid's Day Circus that allows kids to get involved which provides photo opportunities for families and a tiger show that will showcase more than 60 rare and endangered cats, he said.

The interest and excitement has been building recently as organizers have been getting hundreds of calls daily. The event's Web site is averaging 200 hits a day and had more than 2,000 last week alone, Clark said.

Tickets cost $8 for children and $10 for adults at the gate. Children under eight years old will be admitted free. Advance tickets are $2 dollars cheaper and are still available at several locations in the Tri-State including Casey's Pub, Clark's Nursery in Coal Grove, the Chimney Corner Caf in Ashland, Ky., Ashland Floral and Chris' Guitar Shop.

Admission covers all the different shows, exhibits and activities except for a few fair rides and the vendors.

The arts and craft displays, the planetarium, NASCAR displays and kid's karaoke and face painting and more will be available all day, every day. Health screenings will also be available each day with the times still to be announced. Many of the individual shows such as the magician and the wild west show will be offered twice a day and three times a day on the weekends.

The gates open at 11 a.m. and close at midnight each day, except for Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday, the gates open at 9 a.m. and will not close until 4 a.m. because of the rave and laser show. Sunday, the gates open at 9 a.m. and close at 11 p.m.

Clark and more than 20 members of the Mega Festival committee intentionally went after several big-name acts from a variety of genres.

Headliners include country artists Trick Pony, Joe Nichols, Jennifer Hanson, and rock / pop acts such as the Kiss Army Tribute Band, Six Pence None the Richer and many more.

Trick Pony was nominated for five Academy of Country Music awards including Top Vocal Group, Album Of The Year for "On A Mission," Single Of The Year and Video Of The Year for "Just What I Do."

Joe Nichols is considered to be one of the hottest young country stars around. He was named Top New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music last week. Nichols also received a Grammy nominations for Best Country Album and Best Country Male Vocal Performance. Nichols' first two singles both reached

No. 1 on the country radio charts and his "Brokenheartsville" video reached No. 1 on the CMT Video Chart.

Jennifer Hanson is another up-and-coming country star. Her first single "Beautiful Goodbye," from her self-titled debut album has been critically acclaimed. Hanson was nominated for the Top New Female Artist at the 38th Annual Country Music Awards.

The Austin, Texas-based group Sixpence None the Richer was given a Grammy nod for Best Rock Gospel for their self-titled album. The group's first single, "Kiss Me," was featured in the hit teen movie, "She's All That" and was on the "Dawson's Creek" soundtrack.

The Kiss Army Band is one of the most well-known Kiss tribute bands. Presenting a visual stage performance, the group is decked out in classic KISS costumes and play the hits that made the original band so popular.

Because of the star power of the musicians and the variety of activities, organizers have anticipated that more than 500,000 people will visit Ironton. Mayor Cleary said this could be a nice boost for the local economy because people will spend money in the community.

To handle the sheer numbers of visitors, the event organizers will pay for additional officers from the Ironton Police Department and the Lawrence County Sheriff's department, in addition to Wackenhut security, to keep traffic flowing and make sure the event goes as smoothly as possible.

Ironton Police Chief Bill Garland said he does not anticipate any major problems, but said some minor inconveniences are to be expected.

"We are talking about some large crowds and lots of traffic, so the problems will be similar to those created by the Memorial Day Parade," he said. "I do foresee problems with traffic on Third Street. It is going to be more congested than the parade because it is a smaller area and only has a few accesses."

Because alcohol will be sold, law enforcement officials will probably be a little busier making sure everyone obeys the laws. However, this is not much different than the former Ironton Regatta that was stopped for financial reasons, not because of any issues with the alcohol sales, Garland said.

To help accommodate the extra traffic, Clark and the other event committee members have made arrangements with local property owners to use parking such as the VFW and Wolohan lots and the eight acres that the Ohio Department of Transportation owns in the Commerce Center.

Liebert will allow people to park in its lot for $3 per car and the company will donate the money to local charities, Clark said.

The organizers have also pledged to donate $5,000 to the city out of the profits, as well as donate all profits to local food pantries and charities, Clark said.

Although this year's event has not even started, Clark is optimistic about the future and hopes to keep the event in Ironton for years to come.

"We are already working on next year," he said. "We hope to be the biggest festival on the east coast within three years."

For more information call, (606) 833-5881 or go online at