By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ALEXANDRIA — A key component was missing from the Alexandria Small Town USA Festival Saturday: people.
A few hundred showed up throughout the second day of the fall fair, but attendance in general was a fraction of what it's been in recent years, according to volunteers and vendors. Part of the issue was weather, with rain or the threat of rain looming throughout the day. Others blamed it on an apparent and inexplicable decrease in popularity.
"It's much smaller than we've remembered it being," said Shon Littlefield of Alexandria.
Littlefield, his wife Mary and three children came to the festival to watch one of their daughters perform at a gymnastics show organized by Bonnie and Sheri's Dance on Saturday afternoon. The couple has been coming for years, but said this was perhaps the smallest the festival has been.
Still, the local family said they intended to have fun. Building 1 at Beulah Park featured about 20 vendors selling everything from shoes to jewelry to bathroom tiling. The festival also boasted about 10 food vendors.
"My wife always buys little knickknacks here," Littlefield said.
The inclement weather forced a show by the Central Indiana Old Car Club and the Model A Car Club to pack up far ahead of schedule. Larry Van Dyke of Alexandria said that was one of the reasons he was attending his first Small Town Festival.
"It's really small. A lot smaller than I expected," Van Dyke said. "I hadn't really experienced it before. I think a lot of it is because of the rain. It's really too bad because I think it could've been a really good event if not for the weather."
Van Dyke stayed to watch one of his granddaughters sing at a performance by the Alexandria-Monroe High School Choir Saturday night.
One event the rain didn't slow was the Vintage Toy and Train Show at the 4-H Building on the fairgrounds. About 30 displays ran for the better part of the afternoon, featuring model and antique trains and car toys.
One group designed a display that took up about a fourth of the main hall in the building, with a fully functional toy train track. Joe Acker from Greensburg and Bill Baumgartner from Greenwood joined about 15 friends in establishing the track display. For a lot of the mostly retired men in the group, attending train shows from Fort Wayne to Chattanooga allows them to show off a hobby and a labor of love.
"A lot of us have been together a long time," Acker said. "We enjoy letting people see what they don't normally get to see with these models. And we love going to these shows."
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