Coming home to Carbon Hill


It’s the time of year when motors give life to amusement rides, the call of Bingo, the crack of the bat and the boom of fireworks resonate through the village of Carbon Hill.
After a pandemic-pause, the tradition continues as the 71st annual Carbon Hill Homecoming celebration officially gets underway today, Wednesday, June 23. The event opens at 6 p.m. with a ceremony recognizing the 2021 grand marshal Ed Lancaster, a long-time community servant and volunteer.
The first summer festival was held in 1949. Among the early founders of the festival were a group of single men known as the Meister Brau Club and a fellow named Babe Kelly—his father had been the superintendent of the Carbon Hill mines.
Those early festivals were held late in the summer and featured games of soccer, pony rides, Bingo and treats cooked by the ladies of the village.
Today, the Homecoming is one of the most anticipated local events of the summer season, with thousands of festival goers for the five-day celebration.
Since the beginning, profits from the festival have been used for community improvements. That remains the practice to this day.
Mayor Adam Johnson and town officials are eager to welcome guests to the town park this week with events for every age to enjoy.
As they have since that first festival in 1949, the village will host daily games of Bingo, the prizes donated by the local businesses, organizations and individuals.
A highlight of the festival is the carnival rides and games, and this year the village is being served by two amusement companies.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the mayor said carnival companies have found it difficult to find workers and that rings true for the firm contracted by the village who ended up subcontracting out some of the amusements.
The carnival opens this evening at 6 p.m. and continues daily through Sunday evening. Wristbands for unlimited rides will be available in the park at a cost of $25 per day.
Typically plans for the festival take about one year. This year’s event came together in just a couple of months.
Johnson reports that due to COVID restrictions and a mayoral election, it wasn’t clear how the Homecoming would be presented after an initial meeting early in the calendar year. In his bid for the mayoral post, he was clear in his plan to host the celebration this summer.
Once the election was over, he got to work with the Homecoming Committee to get plans in place.
Remnants of the pandemic has found it difficult to find volunteers to run the food stand—a popular spot during Homecoming week.
Through a partnership with Mustachio’s Bar & Grill, festival favorites like hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs and the ever popular turkey poorboy will be sold in the stand each evening.
The beer garden is open and softball is being played each evening with the champions of the 10th Annual Josh Cumming Tournament to be crowned Sunday evening before the first firework is set off.
Among the events scheduled this year are performances by local musicians, character impersonations, a parade and presentations on local history at the Carbon Hill School Museum.
The park is ready and village residents are looking forward to the festival’s return and all that it brings to the community.
Johnson points out the support and effort of the townspeople is what has kept the festival going for 70-plus years.

A schedule of events appears in the print edition of The Coal City Courant