It’s one of the sure signs of summer: the Cicero Community Festival is taking place this weekend.
The annual event marks a milestone anniversary this year, commemorating 20 years of bringing Cicero businesses and residents together behind Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church on Route 11.
“It shows how vibrant Cicero is,” said Steve Becker, one of the festival’s organizers. “It’s one of the fastest growing areas in Onondaga County. Businesses are continuing to come into the area. People are enjoying this community. It’s a very stable community. I think through all the ups and downs with the economy, people are still doing business in Cicero. They want to have an address in Cicero. Over the last 20 years, the chamber has felt that the festival is a way to bring businesses and the community together.”
The festival is organized each year by the Greater Cicero Chamber of Commerce. It was started two decades ago by businesses seeking to reach out to residents and bring the community together, according to Becker.
“The purpose of the chamber is for businesses to connect and to network and to let people in the community know about them,” he said. “The festival, in a way, is an extension of that networking with the community. “
The committee that puts together the festival is co-chaired by Chamber President Shari Gamlen, owner of Gamlen’s Truck Caps, and Dan Spink. Both have been involved with the event since its beginning in 1992 and have seen it evolve from a small affair that drew a couple hundred people to a massive undertaking that attracts some 8,000 people each year.
“It’s really evolved over the years,” Becker said. “We’ve got a lot going on.”
That’s an understatement. The festival runs from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, June 8, and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 9, in the parking lot and grounds behind Sacred Heart Church on Route 11 (8229 Route 11). Friday night’s attractions include a classic car show with about 300 to 400 cars ($3 admission) and a performance by Ruby Shooz. Saturday, meanwhile, is when the bulk of the activities will take place.
“On Saturday, it’s free admission,” Becker said. “We have a whole bunch of activities, starting with the parade at noon. Last year, more than 700 people were in the parade, with a couple thousand watching. We also have Star Search, a martial arts demonstration, the craft and business show, Letizia and the Z Band playing. This year, to mark the 20th anniversary, we have an anniversary cake from Price Chopper. Once it gets dark, we’ll have fireworks. We’re showing a movie, ‘Despicable Me,’ for free outdoors. We’ve set up a piece of canvas on a shed with a projector showing the movie, so people can watch that.”
Visit cicerofestival.com for more information, including a full schedule of events.
Last year, the festival added a new feature when it began honoring famous Cicero natives. The first honoree was CNY Central’s Jackie Robinson. This year, 93Q’s Amy Robbins will get the nod.
“We do have Amy Robbins,” Becker said. “She lives in Cicero. She’s going to be the grand marshal of the parade, and she’ll be there for the rest of the festival Saturday.”
As if the entertainment wasn’t enough of a draw, festival-goers can also enter to win a number of prizes.
“This year, because of the anniversary, there are a couple of ways for people to win prizes,” Becker said. “The theme this year is ‘Passport to Fun.’ When you come to the festival, you get a program book that you can get stamped when you go to different vendors. When you get at least six stamps, you rip out the passport page and drop it off in the beverage tent, and you’ll be eligible to win the grant prize, which is a weekend in Toronto from AAA Travel. And there are lots of other prizes — dinners, a car cover from Pep Boys, lots of gift cards, a ton of prizes.”
Becker said the festival provides an excellent opportunity for members of the Cicero community to unite.
“This really brings the community together,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for residents to see the businesses and the arts and crafters and to see that they do business in Cicero, but they also live here. You’ll get to see a lot of different organizations – the Cicero Fire Department, the chamber, the Cicero PBA, the church — we work with their CYO. It’s an opportunity to bring Cicero completely together in a fun environment.”
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.