WILMINGTON — Several new musical groups and a new mechanical carnival ride have been added like strawberry sauce to the Banana Split Festival schedule this Friday and Saturday.
Those new attractions will accompany the basics for which the festival has become known — classic cars, food vendors, a baseball tournament and build-your-own banana splits at “Hazard’s Restaurant” circa 1907, when the dish was created in downtown Wilmington.
Live and lively music remains a central feature at the 21st annual summer festival organized by the city’s Rotary clubs. On Friday, from 6 to 7:50 p.m. on the mobile stage will be Par 5, led by “Fathead” Davis who grew up in Maysville, Ky. Davis comes recommended by locals, and is known for a husky voice, piano chops and soulful blues.
On Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 12:25 p.m., Heavy Medicine makes its Banana Split Festival debut. Local resident Rob Stuckert is part of this four-person blues, funk, soul and rock band based in Cincinnati.
From 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, a Christian music group from Mount Orab called Third Generation makes its first Banana Split Festival appearance. The family trio’s music is described as Southern Gospel and a cappella.
Festival entertainment chairperson Bob Schaad said he heard the group last November at the Murphy Theatre, and as soon as they were done he ran up to the stage to see whether they could come to the summer festival.
The Folks, a duo made up of Wilmingtonians Ben Schaad and George Carrington, will take the stage twice on Saturday: 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. They will do a lot of John Denver songs, along with artists such as Neil Young and Jim Croce.
The first band to perform at the festival Friday will be Rewind, comprised of locals Dan Mongold, Paul Shivers, Bill Jenkins, Joe Spicer and Bill Spicer. They play favorites from the 1950s and ’60s.
At 8 p.m., returning from last year, is the Brent Keith Band. His hometown is Blanchester and he is anticipated to bring some homegrown country music and heartland rock. Television viewers may recall him from “Nashville Star” and “American Idol”.
From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, the progressive bluegrass trio Sawgrass will produce its sounds with a mandolin, upright bass, acoustic guitar and vocals. They are from the Dayton and Springfield areas.
“I just love those guys,” said Bob Schaad.
Cheap Thrill, a three-piece classic rock band doing songs of the 1960s through 1980s, has been brought back to the festival.
Blue Steel, out of Highland County, will be the Saturday night headliner and play classic rock favorites. “They have pretty much put a whole new act together,” Schaad said.
The new carnival ride is named “Tubs of Fun,” according to festival games chairperson Sigrid Solomon.
Other activities geared toward the younger set are inflatables, ring toss, a fish pond game and a dunking booth.
There will not be a 3 p.m. Saturday masters competition where local chefs get creative with their own versions of a banana split. No one signed up and apparently many local chefs had made previous commitments for Saturday afternoon.
Contrary to the starting times in the brochure schedule, the festival starts Friday at 4 p.m., and will resume Saturday at 10 a.m. (with the exception of the Heather’s Hope Lickety-Split 5K race, which starts at 9 a.m. Saturday).
The festival is held at J.W. Denver Williams Jr. Memorial Park in Wilmington.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.