EATON — Community leaders came together at a meeting held last week to rally the Preble County troops in working toward the recently revived Preble County Pork Festival.
“We are RMJG Events, and we just wanted to say thank you to everyone for coming out,” Megan Griffis said in introducing herself and her husband, Robert Griffis at the Wednesday, June 29, meeting. “We are real people. We have a real company and we just wanted to introduce ourselves so that just we can start having theese conversations about this: the Pork Festival is happening!”
RMJG has been contracted to manage this year’s festival, saving it from cancellation just last month.
“We would be remiss if we did not thank our board members,” Megan Griffis said of the Preble County Pork Festival Board. She also recognized the Preble County Commissioners for their support.
Megan also thanked the county and local leaders and members of the community who were in attendance.
“And then the rest of you, we want to say thank you to you as well. The fact that you took time to come out today and have this meeting with us shows your commitment to the community and to the county at large and what that means to the community,” she said.
Robert Griffis has worked 29 years in the trade show and event production industry. “I started my career with a company called Freeman,” he said. “If you’ve done any corporate exhibiting more than likely, it’s done by Freeman. Eighty-five percent of the trade shows that you attend are produced by Freeman and I probably did every single one in 29 years. It’s a company that produces about 5,000 events a year.”
Megan Griffis is an event planner by trade as well. The Griffises met in New York at Freeman. She was at Freeman for 17 years, she said. “I’m more on the client-facing side,” she said. “I was in front of house and he’s back of the house. I shake hands and kiss babies and get sales and all of that, and he was out there kind of producing everything.
“We really just wanted you to meet us to understand who we are,” Megan said. “What our intention is with this is to really align goals — because this event if it’s successful for Pork Festival itself, is successful for the county. It’s successful for all of the businesses and individuals that live here as well.”
“We really want to make sure that it’s successful holistically because it’s such a financial boost, morale boost, however you want to stay that — it’s definitely something that the community values and puts emphasis on. So that’s why we’re here,” Megan added.
Those attending the meeting were provided a survey to provide their input on the Pork Festival and were asked to sign up to volunteer.
“The historical vision of the founders was it’s about pork industry,” Megan said. “It’s about bringing the community together, really just having a big party, right? “We also want to continue for it to be a showcase of our county. If you’re a business owner in here, and you’re hiring, it’s a career fair, right? You can be here and you’re networking with hundreds of thousands of people, tens of thousands of people, every single time. You can build those relationships, really showcase the company.
She continued, “If you’re a Realtor, what better way to say, you know, ‘hey, come live here,’ right? So it’s really a showcase of all of that.
“By our invitation to you all, we have identified you all as community leaders in Eaton, Preble County, Lewisburg — New Paris. So you’re coming from all ends of the county, and we want you to be ambassadors.”
The meeting focused on sponsorships, chairing committees, volunteerism, and how to participate and advocate for the festival in the community.
“In terms of corporate in-kind gifts or corporate sponsorships, we know that we’re coming late into the game, that most marketing dollars have already been established, and that budgets have already been met,” Robert said. “So, we’re asking that if you if you have any marketing dollars available, we would love to have them. We’d love to know how to get our hands on those marketing dollars and sponsorships. And then start thinking towards next year, the day after the event is done.”
According to Megan, the Pork Festival has given back nearly $2 million to the community since its inception.
“So after 50 years, we’re kind of flipping that script a little bit, so that now the community’s got to give back to the Pork Festival, so we can have it for another 50 years and beyond,” Megan said.
The Griffises said there are at least 29 different “departments” which need volunteers to operate the festival. Volunteers have already started signing up.
“So whether it’s operations, whether it’s a food venue, whether it’s the kitchen, whether it’s setup, whether it’s cleanup, there’s all these different areas and ways to help through volunteers, so we will need chairs and co-chairs,” Megan said of the necessary committees.
The Griffises reported there has been an “overwhelmingly positive response” from exhibitors, many of whom had already requested refunds after the initial festival cancellation. “And now that we’ve said the festival’s actually happening, the phone’s ringing off the hook,” Megan said, noting there has only been one vendor who has actually canceled.
The other way to support the effort is to become a member of the Pork Festival, according to the Griffises.
“I don’t know if you knew this or not,” Megan said, “But For $5 you can actually become a member of the festival.”
The 2022 Preble County Pork Festival is slated as always for the third full weekend of September, Sept. 17-18.
Volunteers can sign up at www.porkfestival.org and on the county’s website at www.prebco.org.
Watch for additional details on the festival as they become available.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4061 and follow on Twitter @emowenjr.