GRATIS — The Village of Gratis is turning 200 years old on June 11.
To celebrate, the southern Preble County village is throwing a two-day celebration, June 10-11. The festival will feature numerous events, activities, concerts, and contests.
The celebration will start on Saturday, June 10 with a breakfast. Afterward, the residents and village officials will gather for a parade which will march from Ohio 122 and Brubaker Road to Ohio 725 and East Franklin Street. The parade will feature grand marshal Donnie Lewis, a native of Gratis and current tour manager for Peter Frampton.
After the parade, everyone will gather on Franklin Street for the festival, which will be kicked off with a speech from Lewis.
The festival itself will include live music, including bands such as the Worley Boys and Bad Men on a Mission. There will be a bike and car show, activities for children, a cutest baby contest, and a longest beard contest.
On Sunday, June 11, there will be a church service in the morning and then a live auction featuring memorabilia and homemade pies. There will also be bands performing all day.
Part of the celebration will also include opening the time capsule that was put in the old city building (now the Gratis Library) on June 11, 1967.
The Bicentennial Committee is seeking parade participants, including tractors or steam engines. All organizations are welcome to participate in the parade.
There is a small Bicentennial Celebration fund, but the committee is seeking sponsors and donations. To raise money for the celebration, the committee will be selling bicentennial merchandise. This will include bicentennial souvenir books, t-shirts, and plates. The t-shirts will have the Gratis Bicentennial logo on the front and sponsors listed on the back.
According to committee members, the village had both a souvenir book and plates for the village’s sesquicentennial and these new versions will be updates from the 150th birthday to the 200th birthday. The books and t-shirts will be available for pre-order and all three items can be purchased during the celebration. Definite prices are not established yet, but t-shirts should be $15 with extended sizes costing $20.
The next bicentennial meeting will take place on Thursday, March 30, at 6:30 p.m. in the Gratis Village Office, and is open to the public. According to Bicentennial Committee Co-Chair Robin Richardson, the group will discuss what information to put into the souvenir book, and potential vendors and concessions.
If interested in volunteering, sponsoring, or pre-ordering merchandise, the Gratis Bicentennial Committee is asking that individuals reach out to the Gratis Village Office at 937-787-3728 or leave a message at the Gratis Bicentennial Facebook page and someone will respond accordingly.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH