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Local News

April 23, 2010

Oneonta set for OH Fest on Saturday


Music, games, rides and arts vendors will line Main Street downtown for OH Fest 5 on Saturday afternoon.

And Saturday night, sound waves from performers, including a Bon Jovi tribute band, will fill the air of Oneonta's Neahwa Park.

For the fifth year, SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College students have worked together to present a free festival for classmates and for the community. "OH Fest is something to celebrate," said Frank Minisci, a junior at the State University College at Oneonta. The carnival will feature family-friendly activities, and the concert will offer music appealing to listeners of many ages, he said.

"We want to give back to the community," Minisci, a member of the OH Fest 5 planning committee, said. "We can't be a college without the support of the taxpayers _ we want to show the community we are grateful."

SUNY Oneonta enrolls more than 5,880 students, and Hartwick is a private liberal arts college with about 1,480 students.

Each college has put $40,000 toward the costs of OH Fest, said Andy Binder, director of campus activities at Hartwick. The funds came from student activity fees and pay for entertainment, equipment rental and other costs, he said.

Organizers said Thursday they were glad to hear a favorable weather forecast.

The National Weather Service said skies Saturday will be mostly sunny with high temperatures in the mid-60s. The forecast is for partly cloudy skies Saturday night, with a 30 percent chance of showers after midnight and lows around 40 degrees.

Previously, the festival has attracted thousands of people.

Rachel Lutz Jessup, chairwoman of the Main Street Oneonta business group, said OH Fest benefits the community because it attracts families to downtown and enhances connections with students.

"We're glad they do it," she said. "It's a wonderful thing."

Main Street downtown will be closed for the carnival, which will feature inflatable rides, games and performances by college bands, organizers said, and more than 60 vendors are expected. Several hundred students from each campus have volunteered to help with activities Saturday.

Minisci said alcoholic beverages won't be sold or permitted at the carnival or concert. He was on the planning group of five students from each campus that met almost weekly since October to organize the festival and present plans for approval by the city of Oneonta.

"It's a great opportunity for the students and the community to be together in an environment where they're enjoying entertainment," Liz Shannon, Seventh Ward alderman, said.

Organizers worked with police, fire department and city officials on arrangements for sites and activities. The concert will be at the field across from Damaschke Field, the city's baseball park, officials said.

Oneonta Sgt. C.J. Witzenburg said police have been planning for the large crowds expected.

"There will be extra patrols," he said. But he couldn't recall any major incidents in previous fests, which in general have been positive, he said.

"It's been a pretty good community event," he said. "The music's usually good."

Binder said planning the festival involved cooperation among campuses and the city to accommodate events, crowds, activities and establish safety measures.

"We just want everybody to have a great time," Binder said. The concert in Neahwa Park will conclude no later than 11 p.m., he said.

"This is the fifth year _ I'm expecting another great year," said Bill Harcleroad, director of campus activities at SUNY Oneonta. "The community as well as the colleges have embraced it."

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