Threat of severe weather closes Elwood Glass Festival on Saturday

Aug. 21—ELWOOD — Vendors at the 39th Elwood Glass Festival were up in arms Saturday after they were ordered to shut down their booths because of impending rain.

The Madison County Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency announced on its Facebook page about noon that the festival at Callaway Park would be shut down for the remainder of the day after 2 p.m. The event had been scheduled to close at 10 p.m.

"Due to the potential of severe weather moving into the area later this afternoon and evening, the Glass Festival in Elwood will be closing today," the post read.

It was unclear Saturday whether the Glass Festival would be allowed to operate Sunday. The midway was originally scheduled to be open 1-5 p.m. Sunday.

According to National Weather Service predictions, rain in the area was not expected to start until about closing time Saturday.

As of 7 p.m. Saturday, the Elwood forecast for Sunday called for scattered showers and thunderstorms before 11 a.m., with showers likely and storms possible between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Vendors Mehmet Koksun and Phoenix McDonald said they didn't understand why their booths had to be closed the entire time.

"I think they're being a little drastic, honestly," McDonald said. "Close it down for a couple of hours if you need to, but don't close down the entire event."

In her second year at the festival, the Indianapolis resident sells jewelry and psychic services.

Officials with the Elwood Chamber of Commerce said they had no choice but to obey the EMA orders.

The outdoors events were among many taking place for the festival, which started Friday. Other events included a parade, glass factory tours and a Royal Events visit with Disney-inspired princesses.

The glass festival celebrates Elwood's heritage as a glassmaking center, sparked by gas deposits found in the area in the 1800s.

On Saturday, McDonald was defiant about shutting down her booth after learning the carnival ride vendor planned to continue as long as people came to the park.

The occasional cloudburst is to he expected at outdoors summer events, she said, but everything does not have to be shut down indefinitely for a weather event of short duration.

"It's Indiana. We had the rain this morning, and they didn't do anything then. They didn't shut everything down," she said. "You can't dictate to everyone that's coming here, and if the carnival is open, it doesn't make sense that none of the booths are open for people to visit. If people want to shop, let them."

Though Koksun had planned to stay through Sunday, he said he was going home to Columbus, Indiana, because it didn't make sense to spend $300 to stay in a hotel room when he was unable to make any money from the wooden craft boats and motorcycles he sells.

"They announced all-day tomorrow rain, so why do I stay and pay for a hotel? We don't make money, so we got to go home."

Though he can't recall what he paid for the booth space because he made the arrangements to come to Elwood and other festivals around the same time three months ago, Koksun said he wants a refund.

Little glassware or objects d'art were offered by vendors Saturday, though clothing, kitchen linens and sculpted wood were for sale. Also available were sought-after fair foods, including caramel corn, elephant ears and snow cones.

Claudette Roberts came from Kokomo to help her granddaughter with her barbecue stand.

"My daughter wanted to try a glass festival," Roberts said. "She'd never done one before."

While weather allowed, visitors could visit the extensive car show at the back of the park where junior high school buddies Dale McCord and Dave Burton showed off their classic vehicles.

McCord's black 1964 Catalina with the red rims was the original one he bought from Pete Peterson in Elwood for $2,600.

Burton, of Alexandria, proudly displayed his Highland green 1968 Ford Torino.

"I had one just like it back in the day. I built this one like my original," he said.