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Maumee Summer Fair Marks 40-Year Milestone

The 2003 Olde Maumee Summer Fair committee members included (from left) front row, Karen Dibling, Bob Brannan, Brenda Clixby and Stephanie Mattoni; center row, Theresa Kelso, Joe Ludwig and Leslie Rombkowski; and back row, Mike Dibling, Tim Tiderman and Joe LaChapelle.
This will be the third consecutive year that Mike and Karen Dibling have chaired the Maumee Summer Fair. Mike’s parents, Ed and Mary Catherine Dibling, helped to plan the first summer fair in 1977, and Mike and his brother Tom spent many years helping to organize the event.

BY NANCY GAGNET | MIRROR REPORTER — One of Maumee’s most celebrated traditions began in 1977, when a group of local business owners decided to hold a summer festival. The previous year, the group had formed the Uptown Business Associa-tion and selected the third weekend in August to hold the event, which they named the “Olde Maumee Summer Fair.” “The initial thought was to have an arts and crafts show to bring people to the uptown area,” said Mike Dibling, whose parents Ed and Mary Catherine spearheaded those early efforts. It didn’t take long for Mike’s brother Tom Dibling to join Ed and Mary Catherine in planning the festival. As Mike got older, he also joined in the undertaking that has remained part of the Dibling family business – Dibling Floor Covering & Interiors – for most of the last 40 years. Mike, who is the third-generation business owner, has enlisted the help of his wife Karen in planning the event, which will take place next weekend, Friday and Saturday, August 11-12. The first summer fair stretched along three blocks of Conant Street with vendors lined up on the sidewalks. As it grew in popularity, it also grew in size, eventually extending along West Wayne Street. Additional activities were also added, including live entertainment under a festival tent near St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and a small parade. “It was a community parade that began at the Maumee library with people decorating their bikes and walking their dogs,” Mike said. “It just continued to evolve from that.” Eventually, a classic car show became part of the event as well as a kids’ area and horse-drawn carriage rides. The Maumee Chamber of Commerce organized a Whale Race, an event in which rubber whales were raced in the Maumee River, and Dale’s Bar and Grill sponsored a parking lot party. Local historian and executive director of the Maumee Valley Historical Society (MVHS) Jack Hiles said that early on, the local uptown businesses were heavily involved in planning the event. “In looking at the older ads and different things that were put out for the street fair, a lot of the businesses that were open back at that time took out full-page ads, so they were very much involved,” he said. A portion of proceeds from the parking lot party benefits the Maumee Senior Center and the MVHS. “So it’s important for us,” Jack said. “Anytime we get any kind of donation is important.” In 2000, the first Taste of Maumee, a food court featuring local cuisine, was added on the east side of Conant Street, featuring 14 restaurants, which at the time included Red Lobster, Hops Restaurant Bar and Brewery and Tony Packo’s. “We eventually moved everything across the street where it is today because we needed the lot for the parking lot party,” Mike said. The name also changed to the Maumee Summer Fair and over the course of four decades, it has morphed into a two-day event, with many of the same events that have kept it going through the years – live music, a beer garden, over 100 vendors, a car show, a large kids’ area and a parade that features the high school marching band, local dance companies, nonprofit organizations, fire and police vehicles, city leaders and politicians. In addition to the Diblings, former Maumee Chamber of Commerce executive director Brenda Clixby also oversaw organization of the event beginning in 2008, during a period of time when Mike and Karen were raising their three children. “It’s a great community event,” Brenda said. She continued organizing it for five years, adding features such as the Bow Wow Bash, corn hole tournaments and a talent show. “You always want to try something new, but a lot depends on the economy and of course the weather,” she said. “You want to establish good vendors, too. If people come and aren’t happy about the vendors, they won’t come back. You only get one shot.” After Brenda stepped away from organizing the event, the firm H.O.T. Graphics was hired to manage it before Mike and Karen Dibling returned in 2014. “Scores of volunteers over the years have worked behind the scene to staff pop trailers, pull power cables and volunteer as needed,” Mike said. “Without volunteers the Maumee Summer Fair would not be possible.” The date of the event also switched from taking place the third weekend in August to the second weekend, so it wouldn’t conflict with the annual Rib Off at the Lucas County Recreation Center. “I grew up in the town and that’s why it’s important for me to be part of this,” Mike said. “My parents taught me to give back. I don’t give back financially, I give back with my time.” City administrator John Jezak said that the Maumee Summer Fair is a great asset to the Maumee community. “Over the years it has become a signature event in Maumee. For many, it’s a great time to get together and see old friends,” he said. For complete information, visit www.maumeesummerfair.com.

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