The McFarland Community Festival, a weekend-long festival launching in September 2022 that was born out of previous community festivals, was created to foster relationships and be inclusive.
Stephanie Brassington, the chair of the festival committee, said that the festival’s main purpose was to build bridges.
“The pandemic has been really hard on people,” Brassington said. “We don’t know our neighbors anymore, (we just) write mean comments” on social media.
“Let’s get outside and see each other again,” Brassington continued. “Let’s get to know each other again, and let’s be a community.”
The McFarland Community Festival was reimagined from previous festivals, including the former McFarland Family Festival that ran for many years in downtown McFarland. In 2022, the festival was rebranded to be more inclusive and relaunched, with new leadership, a new itinerary and new energy.
“We took over the family festival, but we made it a whole different type of festival. We had some history to follow, but we really just went out on our own,” Brassington said.
Planning began to reinvigorate the festival in October 2021 and before. Brassington stepped in to become the festival’s chair, and new leadership joined the committee.
One of the pillars of the newly imagined festival, Brassington said, has been inclusion. Brassington is a member of the village’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, and the village and school district have been prioritizing inclusion in the last few years.
Committee members have been asking themselves “how can we introduce as many people as possible in some way in this festival?” Brassington said, to “make sure that we’re including as much of the community as we can.”
The push toward making the festival more inclusive included renaming the festival to appeal to a wider range of attendees.
The festival will also feature a bigger variety of activities. New this year will be a 5K run/walk hosted by the E.D. Locke Public Library, a car show, a vendor fair, a farm to table dinner, more child-friendly activities and more.
Brassington also said the festival is trying to honor a diverse range of cultures and traditions by bringing in a variety of food offerings through food carts, and scheduling multiple musical acts that range in genre.
The festival has economic benefits for the community, if it “bring(s) people from outside of our community” into McFarland, to “help our businesses, help our community as a whole,” Brassington said.
While organizers worked hard to launch the festival in 2022, Brassington said, they’re also planning for the future of the festival, looking at the 2023 festival and beyond.
In 2023, Brassington said, the festival will likely be able to expand its layout by using the parking lot of the village’s new public safety center being constructed in 2022. Brassington also said the committee is working to build a strong financial base for the committee, so the festival is financially stable in future years, by securing sponsorships, seed money and seeking volunteers.
Brassington said the festival committee wants to hear from residents on what they’d like to see in future years.
“We’re changing it so much, so we want to hear that feedback. Everything we’re doing this year is setting us up for the future,” Brassington said. “We appreciate and value their feedback.”
More than anything, Brassington hopes the festival is a way to build connection.
“We all moved here for a reason. (Let’s) get that sense of community again, and really start to work toward (making) this community what we want it to be,” Brassington said.
“We can all bond together and appreciate each other,” she added.