EagleHerald Staff Writer

MARINETTE—As dusk settled on the City of Marinette Saturday evening, community members emerged from their homes and congregated along the bridge and streets near Stephenson Island to watch the fireworks display that concluded the annual Logging & Heritage Festival. The moment was a poignant one; last summer’s festival was canceled because of COVID-19, and the event, as one of the first post-pandemic community gatherings in Marinette, was indicative of a gradual return to normalcy.

City Clerk and co-chairman of the Logging & Heritage Festival Lana Bero said the festival was a success given the COVID-imposed limitations the organizing committee for the event had to work with.

“From start to finish, it was a wonderful day,” she said.

Bero said the turnout was impressive and estimated that a crowd of about 1,500 individuals gathered to watch the fireworks marking the end of the festival. This is a far cry from the usual turnout for the event, which can sometimes draw up to 15,000 people. But the smaller crowd also served to keep people safe from possible COVID transmission; as of the latest update from the Marinette County Department of Health and Human Services, only 39.8% of county residents have completed the COVID-19 vaccine series, making transmission a continued risk.

Despite the smaller crowd, the event was still successful from a business perspective, according to Bero. She said many of the participating food vendors were sold out by the end of the day and also noted that other vendors and crafters were happy with the outcome of the festival.

Even in its scaled-down version, the festival was a marked improvement from the situation in 2020 when some of the main supporters for the festival struggled to meet previous donation amounts amid the pandemic, leaving the organizing committee little choice but to cancel the festival altogether. In contrast, Bero said the committee received about $11,000 in donations this year.

Furthermore, Bero said the committee hopes to move ahead with a full-fledged festival in 2022. Ongoing safety concerns due to COVID, however, may still require that the committee shorten the event to just two days instead of the usual three, according to Bero. She said that a two-day festival would likely take place on just Saturday and Sunday while omitting Friday night.

Other changes for the festival are underway as well. Former Marinette Recreation Director and Logging & Heritage Festival committee member Kent Kostelecky, who has been on the festival board as chairman since its inception in 2011, will be retiring from the committee this year. Kostelecky retired from his position as Recreation Director last February but agreed to stay on with the Logging & Heritage Festival committee for another year when Bero asked him to.

Kostelecky echoed Bero’s sentiments in regards to the success of the event, adding that he felt it was a good decision to bring the festival back but limit it to one day this year. He also reflected on his time as part of the Logging & Heritage Festival committee and said he had enjoyed working with the other members to organize the festival throughout the years.

“It’s a great group of volunteers that have put this festival together,” he said.

As of now, the committee isn’t certain who will replace Kostelecky. But Kostelecky said he was confident that Bero and other volunteers would continue to do good work and bring Marinette’s community together through the shared heritage that the festival commemorates.