So if you know anything about Chagrin Falls you know that they are famous for their Blossom Time Festival which happens every year Memorial Day weekend. It is a very special weekend for those of us who grew up in or near Chagrin Falls. A lot of people that have moved away skip coming home for Easter or some other holiday so they can come home for Blossom Time. Hot air balloon races, drinking on the patios, live bands in every backyard, free buffet spreads walking around people’s yards, drinking at the post office, party at the funeral home, and carnival food!! Who wouldn’t skip Easter and come back for this!?
All kinds of fun stuff happens. The Thursday of the weekend is what we call the “Balloon Glow.” The Balloon Glow is when everyone in town goes to the high school and sets up a spot on the grass with the family and their friends and wait until dark to watch all the hot air balloons blow up and preform a “light show.” The balloons don’t take off that night, it is just a light show to show off all the pretty designs of the hot air balloons and get the weekend started.
Throughout the weekend there is a carnival with rides and fair food, and hot air balloon races all weekend. Hot air balloon races you say? Hot air balloons “race” by getting up in the air and looking for targets to throw their marker at. Whomever gets closest to all the targets wins. So there are these beautiful hot air balloons flying around all weekend which is pretty awesome. They are actually my favorite part.
Side note: The hot air balloons being my favorite part may have something to do with my early childhood. My dad used to trick the balloon flyer people by taking some bed sheets and making a “x” in our backyard so they would think it was a target and we would wake up and run out each day and see what had been tossed into our backyard.
This year my friend Adam drove all the way up here from Columbus, Ohio for the festivities. He came up Saturday night to get our drink on before the big parade day on Sunday. I took him to meet up with some friends of mine for dinner at one of Chagrin’s oldest restaurants (I actually think THE oldest,) Gamekeeper’s Tavern, for drinks and dinner. And more drinks…It was a blast there alone. I introduced him to my friend Lisa (also one of Chagrin’s finest hair dressers and salon owners…Jada Nicole Salon…check it out) and her friends and an old friend of mine, who does not drink, Ryan, came out too. So a little buzzed with everyone arrived we headed off down the road to the only bar in town that is open after midnight. The Greenville!
The Greenville is this old bar that used to be a dirt floored crap shoot until they got new owners a few years ago and now it’s still crummy but now they have a patio and real flooring but hey, it’s the only place open after midnight so no one cares because they have already been drinking at a restaurant bar and want to keep drinking! For some reason there is always a cover charge too. I do not understand the cover charge because it’s not like they aren’t making enough money to pay the band because the whole entire town, three generations included, is there buying drinks and spending a lot of money. Anyway I got off topic. The Greenville is where everyone meets up on Saturday night and I mean everyone. You can fly/drive into town and have dinner with your family wherever you choose but everyone ends up at “The Ville” at some point. Live band and really drunk people = fun night.
Really drunk fun night Saturday turns into hangover Sunday which means it’s time to wake up at 10:00 am and make your way back to town to start drinking in the hot sun before the parade.
Sunday is the main event. The Chagrin Valley Blossom Time Parade.
Now imagine a very small town, it is actually a village, and every house on the main street has a band playing, kegs of beer, a large array of food spread out, games and activities, and anyone, stranger or not, can just walk right in. Amazing right? I go to one house in particular for the parade and pre-parade activities. So Adam and I get up and head to town. I park down at my friends house, meet up with Erin and Liz and make the walk up the street making sure to stop at the post office to get another beer and a cup, hitting up back yards and stopping to talk to people in town along the way making the 3 block walk take like an hour. At our final parade destination we fill up our cups and start eating to cure the hangover. Just before the parade starts we fill up again and head to the front yard and claim a spot to watch the parade from. Now a lot of you probably think parades are for kids and candy, which is true, but watching kids get candy tossed at them while you are sitting on a ledge drinking with all your old high school friends is a lot of fun. Especially when said friends kids are the ones you are watching and poking fun at. The parade seems to last forever. It’s an hour and a half long parade which is pretty long for a little village. But it has some fun things to watch but I’m not going to talk about those. Moving on…
Now I mentioned earlier “party at the funeral home,” sadly last year was the last year the funeral home decided to have their party because too many people from outside of Chagrin Falls were coming into our town and drinking all the free booze and eating all the free food they provided and they didn’t like that. If you’re not from Chagrin Falls just keep out so we can enjoy our home town tradition (unless you’re invited like Adam was.)
After the parade my group makes it’s way down to the fair for gyros and pasta because we’re all hungry from the drinking in the hot sun. The food is amazing drunk or not. This is no average carnival. This is this towns “thing.” They don’t bring in funky carnies and junk rides, they bring in the best. Best food, best games, best rides, best everything. So we eat and what next? Well, you can go back to the Greenville, go to a yard party that still has alcohol left, go to the Eagles Club if you are a member or a member is there that wants to let you in, go to the Trout Club if your fancy-pants friends rented a cabin instead of staying at their parents or a friends home, or you can go to the river to cool off and mess around.
Adam and I decided to part ways with Erin and Liz and go to the Chagrin River to mess around which was probably the best idea. He has never been to Chagrin so he has never seen the Chagrin River (I just assume.) I meant to take him to the Squaw Rock park (http://david-j-west.blogspot.com/2010/11/serpents-root.html) however we ended up at the picnic area park! Either way it was the same river. As we started making our way down to the river I was pointing out all the rocks and trails and blah and noticed a big ass rock on the other side of the river. I said “I bet you that if we walk across this river that rock is Squaw Rock.” So we did, kind of. Adam was smart and kept his sandals on so he was not slipping and sliding everywhere. I was not so smart and left my sandals and ended up having to bear crawl across the river because it was so slippery if I stood up I would fall. It took me like twenty minutes to get across where it took Adam five. Whatever it was still fun. The big rock was indeed Squaw. We goofed around, skipped rocks, threw rocks, tossed pieces of wood, sat on rocks, you know the stuff you do when in a river. We walked/crawled back to our original side of the river and did some investigative walking. Now on this side of the river the river is down below us a good ways. We would get close to the edge of the cliff and try to find rocks, branches, pieces of the parking lot to throw down into the river’s deep spot to hear that beautiful “ker-plunk” sound. We did this for about half an hour before making it all the way around the park and doing that about every ten feet. When we were heading back to my car I noticed something we missed…a way to get down to the water from that side!
It was the best thing in my life. This was actually where my mom and dad used to take us when we were little kids, I haven’t seen this spot in over twenty years. It is a gorgeous part of the Chagrin River with a wide waterfall that a child can actually get behind the waterfall. Like inside a waterfall. How cool is that? So once I found out this was the spot I ran back to the car to get my camera (phone) and the backpack-cooler with beer because we were definitely going to be hanging out here for a bit. I took a bunch of pictures to send to my mom (yeah sentimental.) Adam made some rock art and took a bunch of little rocks and put them on one big rock to write the word “OHIO” in rocks on a rock. I just happen to have a snack pack of Pringles left in my backpack from the house food spread and after catching and playing with some weird fish we sat on a rock under a cliff, at a waterfall, drinking a beer and ate some Pringles. Adam says “I wonder, if anywhere else in the world, are there people sitting on a rock in a waterfall eating Pringles.” Now that’s something to think about.