Monday, December 10th, 2018
Lake Festival volunteer steps down after 42 years
By William Kincaid
CELINA - Since 1977, Jerry Deitsch has been the man behind the camera responsible for capturing indelible images of people and activities part of the annual Lake Festival.
He's also been the director of the Lake Festival Scholarship Pageant, treasurer, committee member and, perhaps most important of all, a friend to many.
After 42 years of volunteer service, though, Deitsch has decided to throw in the towel, stepping down as the Lake Festival committee's longest-serving member.
"Because I'm getting old," he told the newspaper when asked why he decided to retire, saying he'll turn 80 in March. "(But) they said I can't leave altogether."
Lake Festival organizers, friends and others on Sunday afternoon gathered at C-Town Wings to salute Deitsch for his countless hours of volunteer service as one of the festival's pillars and the go-to man for almost any question.
"It's going to be hard to replace him," Lake Festival co-chairwoman Michelle Miller said. "He knows everything (about the festival)."
Deitsch will be further recognized as the grand marshal of next year's festival parade.
Reflecting back on his tenure, Deitsch said he first came onboard in 1977 at the invitation of festival commitee member and fellow Shriner Ira Belcher. Working at Huffy Bicycle Co. in quality control at the time, Deitsch also enjoyed shooting photos on the side.
"We were both Shriners so he asked me whether I would do the photography part of (Lake Festival). They said they couldn't afford a professional photographer," he said with a laugh.
He would scour festival grounds and the parade, hunting for good images.
"I took the pictures of the pageant and the festival and then we made up an album of those pictures and the chamber of commerce kept them and that's how they advertised the festival," he explained. "Back when it was film, I was a little more conservative and I would take maybe 12 rolls of 36 exposure."
The picture count rose exponentially, though, when Deitsch switched to a digital camera. At last year's Miss Ohio pageant, which he was accredited to photograph each year, Deitsch said he took 1,200 pictures.
Deitsch noted that his volunteer work encompassed the entire year.
"We had a lot of meetings and stuff with the girls to get them ready so that was time consuming from the first of April to the pageant," he said. "The treasurer's job is a year-round job because you've always got bills coming in."
As Lake Festival Scholarship Pageant director, Deitsch said it was always impressive to see the transformation of the young women, from blue jeans-wearing aspirants beforehand to formal-gown-clad contestants walking out on stage the night of the big event.
"Between all the people that's been on the pageant and all the girls that have went through the pageant - and even at Miss Ohio - there's a lot of people that I know from there now that otherwise I would have never been able to meet," he said about the friendships forged over the years.
Deitsch said he attended many Miss Ohio pageants and eight Miss America pageants, either in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
As far as he can recall, Deitsch said the parade - one of the major highlights of Lake Festival - has never been cancelled due to bad weather. It was delayed, but never scrapped completely, he said.
"We've had very good support of all the businesses around. They contributed quite well," he said about support for Lake Festival, which began in 1937 but was halted in 1941 because of the World War II.
In 1961, a group of local residents and businessmen decided to revive the festival as a way to attract patrons downtown.