Hundreds of volunteers share in Black Swamp Arts Festival’s I Love BG Award


BG Independent News

A volunteer enterprise that knows how to show the community a good time won the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce’s I Love BG Award.

The Black Swamp Arts Festival received the award at the Chamber’s Mid-Year Meeting and Awards Program.

Bill Donnelly accepts I Love BG Award on behalf of the Black Swamp Arts Festival as, from left, Lee Hakel, Larry Weiss, and Jamie Sands look on.

Given the number of volunteers, as many as 1,000, with some seated in the luncheon audience, festival vice chair Jamie Sands dubbed the honor the “We Love BG Award.”

The Black Swamp Arts Festival will be staged Sept. 7-9 in downtown Bowling Green and feature visual arts, music, and more than a dozen youth art activities.

In his introduction, Clint Corpe, of the Morning Show on WBGU-FM, recalled talking to Floyd Craft, one of the festival’s founders, about the event’s soggy start.

Craft recalled that first year organizers pulling down tents with rain coming at them from all directions and knowing they had lost thousands of dollars that they’d put into the festival. They asked: What next? The answer was: “Let’s do it again.” And they did. Again and again and again. Last year’s the festival marked its 25th year.

In the spirit of the founders, the festival committee wondered after 25 years what was next, said Bill Donnelly, who chairs the festival committee. “What’s our vision for the next 25 years?”

The festival’s mission is to foster a relationship between members of the community and the arts, he said.

Donnelly said he’s researched other events and he could not find another festival of this magnitude that is totally staged and funded by community volunteers.

Monica Manley and brother Mat Manley acept Small Business of the Year Award, which was presented by Gene Klotz, far right.

Among those volunteers is Earlene Kilpatrick, the executive director of the chamber. She’s served on the festival’s artist hospitality committee. Donnelly said if he asked her to show up at 4:30 a.m. on the Saturday morning of the festival, she was there.

This was the last major chamber event Kilpatrick will preside over. She is retiring on Oct. 1 after 10 years in the job. “The chamber has grown,” she said, “and I’ve grown as part of the chamber.”

Heritage Corners, which won the Customer Service Award in 2017, was honored with the Small Business of the Year Award.

Monica Manley, daughter of founders Mark and Debra Manley, said she applied for the award this year because her parents are retiring, and this would be the last year they could celebrate the honor as a family.

On receiving the award, Monica Manley said, “it’s easy to live in Bowling Green because of everyone in this room.”

Her brother Mat Manley said he was surprised to be honored again. He thought he’d come to present the Customer Service Award.

He did do that. The honor went to Wood Haven Health Care, another business that serves the elderly.

Jeff Orlowski of Wood Haven Health Care.

Jeff Orlowski, the director, said that all employees go through empathy training, and they think of themselves not simply as workers, but as super heroes who daily can make a difference in people’s lives.

The chamber also awarded its scholarship winners: Jared Bechstein, high school,  and  Andrew Slembarski, college.

(The guest speaker was Robyn Fralick, new women’s basketball coach at Bowling Green State University. A story on her talk will be forthcoming.)