Tobacco returns to Heritage Days: Organizers say name change was mistake

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Mike DuPre'
Stacy Vogel
November 23, 2007
— They had the best intentions. Honest.

But organizers now say the decision to drop “tobacco” from Edgerton’s Tobacco Heritage Days was a mistake, and they’re going back to the old name.

The event’s board of directors changed the name to Edgerton Heritage Days last year because they thought the word “tobacco” might be keeping away potential visitors.

Not only did new visitors not materialize, but some longtime festival-goers stayed away from the July festival this year, hurt by the name change, said Leanne Cantwell, the new president of the Tobacco Heritage Days organization.

“I think we lost more by changing the name than if we would’ve left it alone,” she said.

In fact, attendance was so low this year that the organization considered discontinuing the event, said Judy Nelson, who stepped down as president in September.

The group handed out a survey at fall events such as the book festival and fall festival and found 98 percent were in favor of continuing Heritage Days. Almost three out of four respondents wanted “tobacco” back in the name.

Kathy Citta, administrator of the Edgerton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the name change confused some festival-goers. Some even missed the event because they didn’t recognize the new name.

“We had gotten some phone calls, and I had two or three myself, that people were calling and asking when we were having our tobacco days, because they didn’t see it in the advertisements,” Citta said.

Others purposely stayed away, she said.

“Some local people were insulted; they were hurt because they had family that had been in tobacco for centuries,” she said. “They thought they weren’t being recognized anymore.”

Citta thought dropping “tobacco” from the name was a good idea, but she understands why the organization put it back in, she said.

“It’s going to be a good example that people are listening and their voices are heard,” she said.

Besides, the event won’t change, Nelson said. It still will celebrate all aspects of Edgerton’s heritage.

‘There’s so much heritage here, but the fact is we were a tobacco town,” she said.

“What do you do? You can’t change history.”

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