A penny for your thoughts and a quarter for your opinion. This year's Harvest Fest and Rib Cook-off included a new twist to the return of the People's Choice Award at the annual event.
Eliminated last year, but making a return appearance this year was the award, which was decided by vote of the people and by virtue of casting of quarters into containers at each rib vendor's booth, said Jo Ann Hershberger, event coordinator and member of the Main Street Merchants Board.
"We were very excited about this," she said. "The vendor with the most quarters is the winner and received a trophy and $200 cash prize." All quarters used in the voting process were gathered and donated to Holmes County Friends and Neighbors of Every Woman's House.
While many of the downtown merchants tried to have extra quarters at their shops, the banks closed at noon and, therefore, "We encouraged people to bring quarters with them," said Hershberger, adding, "It gave us an opportunity to help a worthy charity of Holmes County.
Ribs were ready for sale by 10 a.m., and registered rib vendors included Berlin Hickory Smokehouse, Cindy's Diner, Farmstead Restaurant, Sweet Basil Catering and Justin Miller. The cost per bone averaged $1.50-$2.
A five-member panel of judges was in attendance to rate the ribs on tenderness of the meat, flavor of the sauce and appearance. The winner of the Judge's Award was announced to be Sweet Basil Catering. They received a trophy and a $200 cash prize.
Other food that was available for purchase along Main Street included barbecue pork sandwiches, hot dogs, corn on the cob, baked beans, potato salad, dressing, noodles, homemade ice cream, fudge and fudge apples and more.
Throughout the day, shops lining Main Street (state Route 39), east from Market Street to just past the U.S. Route 62 split, had sales inside and outside.
Festival highlights also featured artist Robert VanNatta and downtown entertainment by Johnny Schrock and Friends, the Stockdale Family, Holmes County Bluegrass, Circle of Friends and John Schmidt. Live dulcimer music performed at Harvest Moon.
A parade, began at 6 p.m. at the Berlin Mennonite Church along U.S. Route 62, and continued south and west through town to Berlin Elementary School.
"It's so much fun. Berlin used to have Pioneer Days, and there are so many senior citizens who put in the effort into making that happen. When I go to the rib cook-off, I enjoy seeing them come out and enjoy the fruit of someone else's labor," Hershberger said.
"I enjoy seeing the local people. We've got the tourists, but the locals...it's the icing on the cake. It's like a small town family reunion.
"It's nice to walk along the street and bump into and catch up with people. It's a small town parade with local bands and local entries. It's the fun of being together as a community," she said.
And, because it's held during a slower tourist time of the year, it's "probably a little more welcoming for the locals," who Hershberger said can see what's changed over time and "stop by some of the stores they've never been in and see what the tourists come here for."
Of course, she said, the "tourists come for the friendly people. It is different here."
All other food was prepared and sold by local clubs and organizations, representatives.
Reporter Christine L. Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.