BELDING — When Belding resident Byron Davey and his wife Debra celebrated their first Belding Labor Day celebration together in 1972, it was just the two of them for the newlywed couple.
Forty-one years later, and the Daveys found themselves celebrating yet another Belding Labor Day celebration this holiday weekend, but this time, it was with their three children, their spouses, and seven grandchildren.
Byron Davey said he’s witnessed nearly every Labor Day festival since that first summer he and Debra were married, and to be able to share it with his family and surrounding community, there’s no place he’d rather be.
“This year’s festival was just new, fresh and exciting,” he said. “There were so many things going on continually, like the music. It was nice to see the car show on the city streets instead of a parking lot.”
Davey was one of thousands of Belding residents who welcomed back former Belding residents for a festival that acts as a homecoming of sorts for the city.
This year’s four-day festival welcomed many new events such as the truck and tractor pull and Candlestock music festival, and again boasted some of its more traditional events, such as the Fireworks Spectacular show.
“When you have seen fireworks as many years as I have it’s hard to be impressed, but you won’t find any better fireworks than we have right here in Belding,” Davey said. “To see the pride of the Belding people come out, to see them say ‘this is our town,’ it makes me really excited to be a part of that.”
This year’s festival was greeted by pleasant weather conditions, with only a chance of thunderstorms that threatened Friday’s activities but never came to fruition.
Downtown Belding witnessed steady foot traffic throughout the weekend with the carnival midway located in the Covered Village Mall parking lot, and saw an influx of thousands of people during the festival’s signature events, such as the Twilight Parade, Labor Day Parade and fireworks show.
Belding Labor Day Committee Co-Chairwoman Shelly Gladding said it was a good learning experience the members of the committee, who faced many new challenges in hosting a variety of events.
“It was a learning experience for us, but I think it went very well,” she said. “Today was huge. Going down the parade route, seeing all the people, it was unbelievable.”
Co-Chairman Scott McNeal said the group operated under one mentality, to stay positive, and believes that attitude was reflected on the entire festival.
“We tried to stay very positive and I think it worked,” he said. “There were many new events, kickball, karaoke, Candestock, that happened for the first time. People seemed to be pretty excited about them we think in the future people will really get into it.”
McNeal also said a special thanks was needed of several of the city’s departments.
“We really want to thank the city, the Department of Public Works, the Belding Police Department and the Belding Fire Department,” he said. “Whatever we needed, they have been unbelievable.”
This year’s parades, which traveled down the traditional route of Bridge Street and welcomed several new entries such as the Ionia High School Marching Band, also awarded prizes for best entries.
In both the Twilight Parade and Labor Day Parade, Belding Tank was awarded first place. The local business incorporated the festival theme of “Blast from the Past” directly into their parade entry, featuring many photos of historic downtown Belding. During the twilight parade, their locomotive engine was illuminated in s series of lights as it strolled down Bridge Street.
Second place in the Twilight Parade was the Miss Belding and court float and second place in the Labor Day parade was the Danish Festival queen and court float.
The committee choice for best float was the Belding Chamber of Commerce float, which featured a large historic image of the Labor Day parade from 1916.
On Sunday, the festival welcomed back the Truck and Tractor Pull event, which saw more than 300 visitors attend the exciting event.
Belding Labor Day Celebration Committee Member Lynn Mason said she was very pleased with the return of the event.
“We didn’t know how many people were going to show, and it turned out to be a big deal,” she said. “You want it to turn out well, otherwise you disappoint a lot of people. The crowd was just spectacular. Hopefully we’ll see even more people next year.”