LaborFest downsizes for 24th year

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Jake Magee
Thursday, August 28, 2014

JANESVILLE—Since 1991, LaborFest has been a three-day festival where residents could spend the Labor Day weekend playing mud volleyball, listening to bands, eating and drinking.

Those fun activities remain, but for the first time in its 24 years, LaborFest is downsizing to a one-day festival Sunday.

Parade coordinator Jeanna Maasz said dropping two of the festival days made sense financially.

“Hopefully in the future we'll build it back up into a three-day event, but right now the most cost-effective way is to have a one-day deal,” she said.

Maasz still expects a good turnout, predicting at least a couple thousand people, but with two fewer days, she knows total attendance will likely be down.

The festival's theme this year is focused around the late Ronnie Thomas, who died last winter.

“Ronnie Thomas was a longtime volunteer—not just of LaborFest but of every other organization you could imagine,” Maasz said.

Thomas lived to help others and was an example of how to benefit the community, she said.

“We want to encourage people to be involved in your community, which is what LaborFest is all about,” Maasz said.

One of the festival's big draws is mud volleyball. Up to 40 teams will compete for cash prizes.

Even those without athletic prowess can win something. The best-dressed competition returns, and teams with the most outlandish costumes can win up to $100.

“Guys in tutus, people dressed as convicts, different colored Mohawks—you get a little bit of everything,” Maasz said. “That's the fun of it.”

Volunteers will sell raffle tickets at the souvenir booth dedicated to Thomas, who used to run it. Those who buy tickets might win Packers tickets, iPad Minis and other prizes.

The festival will host kids' games and activities including a bounce house, a beer garden for adults, three food vendors, a small craft fair and more.

“We've got a great lineup of bands this year,” Maasz said.

This year's local acts include Counterplan, Rev 21 and Killer Cars.

The biggest part of LaborFest doesn't take place on the festival grounds. The Labor Day parade is believed to draw 20,000 to 50,000 spectators, Maasz said.

The annual car show that used to be on the United Auto Workers grounds with the festival has been relocated to Dee's Barber Shop, 510 W. Centerway. Automobile lovers will display their fancy cars in the morning before joining the parade at 1 p.m.

The parade starts at the intersection of Academy and Milwaukee streets and travels the wrong way up Milwaukee Street before turning right onto Main Street and ending at Racine Street. The route is about one mile.

The parade features 82 units this year, which is down a bit from previous years, Maasz said.

Despite the festival's smaller size, Maasz wants people to come out and enjoy their day at LaborFest.

“It's the last weekend of summer. There's something for everybody there—parents and kids alike,” she said. “We just want it to be celebration everyone can enjoy.”

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