By MARIA KACIK
WADSWORTH â€” Sitting in a lawn chair on a sidewalk off Broad Street Tuesday evening, Elden Tritt of Akron watched as an 18-foot blue-tipped match was lit on the Wadsworth square.
Tritt handled plenty of Ohio Blue Tip matches in his life, but none were quite as big.
In high school and throughout college, Tritt worked at the Wadsworth factory that produced the â€œstrike anywhereâ€ Ohio Blue Tip matches. Throughout the late 1940s, Tritt filled in for employees while they were on vacation. In his time at the company he spent time at almost every job there.
Tuesday night, Tritt sat just a few blocks from the factory in which he used to work, but no matches are produced there. The company left in the mid-1980s.
The annual Blue Tip Festival now takes him back to one of his first jobs.
â€œIt causes me to reflect on my time I worked there,â€ Tritt said as the Blue Tip parade began to march through the streets of Wadsworth. â€œI imagine for a lot of the older ones they remember when the factory was here. I guess the younger ones, they donâ€™t make the association with the factory. But Iâ€™ve heard this saying: â€˜Everyone loves a parade.â€™ â€
The Schelkle family of Wadsworth, Brandon, 6, mother, Lorrie (upper left), sister, Brooke, 8, and father, Brad (not pictured) watch the Blue Tip Parade Tuesday evening in Wadsworth. The parade kicks off the annual Blue Tip Festival, which runs through Saturday at Memorial Park and features carnival rides, midway games and food. (Shirley Ware | Photo Editor)
Tuesday night, the city kicked off the 36th annual Blue Tip Festival with the parade and ceremonial lighting of the Blue Tip Match. The festival, complete with food vendors, carnival rides and midway games, will be held at Memorial Park off Ault Street through Saturday.
â€œItâ€™s wonderfully ironic how we set up a giant 18-foot match to symbolize a company that is no longer here,â€ said Andy McIlvaine, who chaired the Blue Tip Festival Committee. â€œThe match has come to symbolize more than just our industrial past. Itâ€™s part of our community pride. That flame symbolizes the vibrancy that the community possesses.â€
Even though the match is symbolic, reminders of the Ohio Blue Tip factory still linger throughout the city. The park in which the festival takes place, Memorial Park, is situated on land Ohio Blue Tip donated for park space.
Also, Mayor Robin Laubaugh noted the cityâ€™s logo depicts a Blue Tip flame.
She added the firmâ€™s influence can still be seen in Wadsworthâ€™s people and its downtown.
â€œOur community (in the 1970s) was supported by several large manufacturing businesses. Most of the businesses have now gone,â€ she said Tuesday afternoon. â€œI think the effect is that we still have a very charming downtown and community, even though we may not have those major manufacturing companies anymore, â€¦ I would say certainly we have changed and developed, but we have that same charm about us.â€
Cheryl Hanna of Wadsworth sat on a bench as the parade went by her and her husband, Robert. She gathered with community members of all ages to watch the parade.
The parade is â€œprobably for just the community togetherness and to give the young people something fun to do,â€ she said. â€œThey look forward to it every year and they donâ€™t even know what itâ€™s for.â€
Walking the sidewalks as the Blue Tip parade marched down Broad Street, 12-year-old Barry Fernholz of Wadsworth said he knew some of the history of the parade. Wadsworth holds this â€œbecause of the Blue Tip factory,â€ he said.
â€œIt made matches with blue tips,â€ his friend Eric Grande, 14, of Medina, added. â€œBut it moved.â€
Grande said he doesnâ€™t mind celebrating the Blue Tip even though the company is no longer around. â€œItâ€™s still a parade,â€ he said.
Kacik may be reached at 330-721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.