Clinton Chronicle staff reporter
ST. JOHNS—The Clinton County Chamber of Commerce Mint Festival Committee has already started planning for the 29th annual St. Johns Mint Festival.
The celebration is scheduled to take place on Aug. 9-11 in the St. Johns City Park.
Mint Festival Committee Chair Brenda Terpening said last year’s festival was not as big of a success as originally thought, mainly due to poor weather conditions.
“There was pretty bad rain,” she said. “(Because of that), we took a financial hit.”
She said events at the mint festival this year will include: the annual parade (a favorite among residents), a softball tournament, kickball/ softball tournament, kids games and activities, and vendors at booths.
Kids Festival Co-Chair Heidi Scranton said she is excited for this year’s celebration.
Scranton, who works with her twin sister Heather to help plan the kids’ festival, said there will be events such as a princess and hero (the heroes being local firefighters and police officers) party, a tea party, and an all-kids parade with festival mascot Minty the bear.
She also said that in addition to these events, there will be carnival games that the kids can play for 25 cents.
Scranton said the carnival games include basketball shooting, a beanbag toss, and a duck pond.
Scranton said she believes her planning will pay off.
“Anything with kids is usually successful,” she said. “(The biggest challenge) is making sure there is enough help and trying to keep it cost-effective.”
St. Johns resident Tara Hettler said she took her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter to her first Mint Festival when she was about two months old.
Hettler said a highlight for her daughter was trying the mint ice cream.
“(My daughter) was about two months old when we first tried the mint ice cream for the first time and she loved it,” she said.
Hettler said she has been attending the Mint Festival for about 15 years.
She said the festival was a family reunion of sorts when she was younger.
“To watch the parade, we used to meet up at a certain spot …with my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins…we’d just all go there, have our bags ready for the candy that was getting thrown out at the parade and stuff,” she said. “So that was kind of fun.”
Scranton, who was the on the Parade Planning Committee for ten years before helping to coordinate the Kids’ Festival, said the parade today is a large parade, complete with marching bands and floats from various businesses and school groups around the area.
She said the parade names royalty, and there are also police vehicles, horses, and food vendors that participate.
“Andy P’s farm passes out ears of corn [each year at the parade],” she said. “They are famous for (their) sweet corn.
Hettler said she now takes her daughter to watch the parade with her family.
“We meet up at my mom’s that’s at the corner of the park area, and we walk down to a spot and we all sit there together, and take pictures,” she said.
St. Johns resident Nicole Walker said she attended the Mint Festival when she was younger, but does not recall much.
Walker said she went to her first Mint Festival since she was younger last year with her two and three-year-old sons.
“I had fun … just last summer I took my 2- and 3-year-old,” she said “They rode the ponies, it was great. The kids games were a lot of fun for the boys.”
Hettler said she regularly has family come into St. Johns from out of town for Mint Festival weekend.
“My grandma comes in from the Ionia-Grand Rapids area,” she said. “And I have cousins too from that area that come over.”
Terpening said the increased attraction to St. Johns during the Mint Festival, which draws in approximately 50,000-60,00 individuals, “brings so much to the economy” and benefits many business in the community.
However, Michelle Thompson, manager of Shaggie’s Ice Cream, 110 N. Clinton Ave., disagrees with Terpening.
Thompson said that there is a change in the amount of business the store sees during the Mint Festival, but it does not deviate much from the store’s normal profits.
Thompson, a Dewitt resident, said the weather has put a damper on the Mint Festival as a whole, and therefore the business her company receives during the event, in the past few years.
“We have been busier,” she said. “ [But] the last couple of years have not been great because the weather has been slow.”
However, Thompson said she attributes the lack of economic boom of her business, during the Mint Festival to a general lack of public interest.
The Mint Festival “is not as big of a deal in years past,” she said. “Especially because of weather not holding out. But families are choosing to do other things.”
Thompson said she believes families are choosing to either do nothing, or take time to vacation and leave the city instead of attending the community celebration.
Walker said she lived in Atlanta for ten years but moved back to St. Johns to raise her children in part because of community-oriented events such as the Mint Festival.
“It’s a good family town, I love the idea of raising children here” she said. “The Mint Festival, I think, is just one of the events in the community that drew me to St. Johns.”
Hettler said she appreciates the community spirit during the time of the mint festival, and likes the opportunities it gives her to bond with her family.
She said she is considering selling fudge with her sister at a booth in the park.
“My sister and I around Christmas time, started selling my grandma’s fudge that she made homemade,” she said. “So we’re thinking about setting up a little stand across from the park where my mom lives and selling the fudge there.”
Thompson said Shaggie’s had a booth at the festival in recent years, however it was not profitable.
She said she will be happy to receive normal business and take business traffic traveling to the store from the parade as opposed to moving some of her employees to a vendor’s booth.
Terpening said the Mint Festival is a “family festival” that has something for everyone: a craft show, flea market, carnival, car show, and motorcycles.
Thompson said she believes the Mint Festival has become more of a craft show and it is very sad to see it “dying out.”
“It’s become a mundane thing and it’s sad,” she said. “Town celebrations are a good thing…the production of the town is a great thing to celebrate.”
Terpening said she believes mint festival is not dying out, but is rather an exciting time for current and former residents of the community.
She said many class reunions take place during Mint Festival weekend, and those who have come home from college for the summer often gather with old friends at the Mint Festival as well.
Hettler said it is the small things that make her appreciate living in St. Johns and being able to experience the mint festival each year.
At the time of the mint festival “there’s lots of garage sales around the area,” she said. “So that as well as the all the little events in the park, and the, the…parade…and all the mint that’s sold here, because it’s the mint capital. People from all over Michigan come, so it brings everyone together.”