His sisters stood on their tip-toes looking excitedly down Bancroft Street for a glimpse of the approaching King Wamba Carnival Parade, but 9-year-old Andrew Henke lay on a blanket looking bored toward the sky.
“If they really want to make this more exciting, they should wait until the parade gets closer and then make a loud noise. ... That would scare people,” he said, earning him a disapproving stare from his mother, who sat nearby Saturday.
“Maybe they could just take a cannon and shoot fireworks out of it,” he suggested.
Young Andrew’s boredom quickly disappeared as the long parade line arrived. He and his sisters, Dawn, 9, and Natalie, 8, were soon jumping up and down excitedly and wildly waving their hands, diving for candy as a bright-red Toledo Fire and Rescue truck drove by, school marching bands played, and droves of political candidates waved, shook hands, and handed out candy and pamphlets.
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Thousands attended the morning parade, the kickoff to the weekend’s 42nd annual Historic Old West End Festival.
“I love to bring the kids here,” Kathryn Henke, 36, of Toledo said. “The King Wamba Parade is like nothing else — it’s kind of eccentric, anything goes. It’s a celebration of fun and life.”
Fun was the key word for most attendees and participants: The festivities included live musical performances, a classic/antique car show, children’s activities, an art fair, and the crowd favorite: mansion tours along Glenwood and Scottwood avenues and Collingwood Boulevard.
There were plenty of garage and rummage sales throughout the Old West End, a psychic and tarot-card reader, and food and beverage vendors slinging traditional festival fare including elephant ears, cotton candy, pizza slices, tacos, hot dogs, lemonade, and beer.
For those with more eclectic tastes, there were fried chocolate chip cookies, waffles in assorted flavors, watermelon splits — watermelon and three scoops of vanilla ice cream — and deep-fried apple bites.
Vendors Richard and Gwen Zulch’s watermelon splits and apple bites attracted lots of customer inquiries. It was the Bowling Green residents’ first time at the festival, but their 32-ounce root-beer floats and their large plastic boats piled high with assorted fruit proved to be crowd favorites.
At a nearby booth, customers lined up to buy Dennis Lang’s funnel cakes and fried chocolate chip cookies, which he makes himself.
“They’re delicious — I can vouch for them,” Mr. Lang said as he smiled broadly and began patting his large belly. “As you can tell, I like to taste my products first.”
Proceeds from his booth go toward programs at the county fairgrounds, Mr. Lang said.
For Old West End residents, the festival is a special tradition. “It’s a throwback to old times when neighborhoods still gathered together,” Cindy Champer of 2504 Scottwood said.
Tom Williams, another longtime resident, agreed.
“It’s a party — a community effort,” Mr. Williams, 70, said as watch the parade. “This festival takes a lot of planning. There’s the diversity of it — people of different ethnic backgrounds coming together and doing something beautiful together. And you know what? It’s just plain fun.”
The festival continues today with a 5K run/walk at 9 a.m. and wraps up at 5 p.m. The marketplace opens at 10 a.m., and home tours resume at 11.