Festival attracts its largest crowd yet

Wide brimmed hats, shorts and lots of fluids helped ChesterFest goers get through the day on Saturday. Sun-washed patrons of the ninth annual event, which was presented by the Chester Community Association (CCA), braved temperatures in the 90s while perusing artisan booths, lunching on Greek, Mexican and southern treats and listening to American music.

As youngsters enjoyed the kid’s zone, sliding and bouncing on Spacewalk of Chester’s amusements, some of their burly fathers were flexing during the Tug-o-War contest. The Estes Tuggers, a team from Colonial Heights Baptist Church, bested the Anytime Fitness team that held the trophy from last year’s event.

Athletics were a prequel to the day’s activities, as well. The ChesterFest 5K runners experienced exceptional weather as the run began at 8:30 a.m. Jacob Wardle, 13, won the men’s overall, running the 5K (3.1 miles) in 17:43 minutes. Marisol Hernandez, 29, took the women’s overall, coming in at 21:04 minutes.

The 2010 race had the largest field in its four-year history with 82 runners. The Thomas Dale High School Key Club stepped up to help out with the race.

At 10 a.m., patrons began streaming down Chester Village Drive and before long the crowd grew into the thousands. Volunteers from Thomas Dale High School’s JROTC and Keyette Club attended to particulars throughout the day, while CCA volunteers gratefully accepted the help of the younger group.

“Outstanding job and many thanks to [the ChesterFest] staff and all of the wonderful volunteers for running such a great event,” said Susan McCammon, who worked with the Shepherd’s Center at the festival. “ChesterFest 2010 was simply outstanding.”

CCA organizers reported many compliments throughout the day as the many events, musical acts and even Bonnie the Bunny entertained area residents.

John Manual won the pie eating contest for the second year running, and he now qualifies to compete for the Cherry Pie Eating Champion of the World title held by area resident Christopher Fens. A very close second was Ted Stanton, who has competed in the contest for a number of years and has sharpened his pie eating skills to come within a few square inches of crust to winning.

The Dog Show always opens the festival with a bark. This year, entries were both cute and talented. The best of show winner was Charlton, a Great Dane owned by India Lipton. In the cutest dog category, a pair of corgis, owned by Elizabeth Keene stole everyone’s heart. Looking like a Disney cartoon star, Chloe, a Chihuahua was dressed as Minnie Mouse and won in the best dressed category. Her owner is Sonjia Barker.

Best trick went to Molli, an Australian cattle dog who performed about 15 amazing tricks that had to have been learned in a fraternity house. Her master was Alex Glaser.

Judges for the dog show were Pat Coleman, of the Petersburg Animal Shelter, Andy Heekan, a ChesterFest volunteer, and Beth Mann, representing Petco.

As the day waned and the crowds thinned, vendors took stock of the day, volunteers prepared to cleanup and begin brainstorming for next year and Chester residents experienced another exercise in what it takes to bind community members together and create a the sense of place that makes one remember what home is.

Editor’s Note: Mark Fausz is a member of the ChesterFest committee of the Chester Community Association.

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