MANTON — In the words of 99-year-old Jane Warren, the Manton Harvest Festival has “always been a biggie.”
Warren would know, since it’s entirely possible she’s been to every single Manton Harvest Festival since 1924.
“It was always a special time,” Warren said. “I doubt if I ever missed one.”
Warren was born in 1923 west of Manton, in the woods just north of Meauwataka in Wexford County. Warren’s son-in-law, Larry Martz, said one of the stories he’s heard about her birth is that a doctor had to be called from Manton to their home for the delivery, and he arrived in a horse-drawn buggy.
The first Harvest Festival was held on Sept. 16, 1924, and at the time, the event was called “Field and Aviation Day” because one of its prizes was a ticket for a free airplane ride.
Warren’s daughter, Sue Martz (Larry’s wife), said the reason it’s likely her mother’s been to every festival is because her parents would bring the entire family of five kids every year, down the youngest members, who were watched over by their older siblings.
For a number of years, Warren’s brother, Merle, even drove a tractor in the Harvest Festival parade.
“The big deal was the parade,” Warren said from her home in Cadillac, where she moved from the Manton area a number of years ago.
“If you’re not a Manton person, you wouldn’t know how important it is. ... It’s been a tradition.”
Warren said one of the memories she has of going to the Harvest Festival was her sister coming up for the Saginaw area and bringing a cake for the family to share as part of a picnic lunch.
Sue, who has been going with her mother to the Harvest Festival all her life, said she also remembers bringing their own picnic lunch to eat during the event, although that tradition seems to have faded over time.
Other traditions remain alive and well at the festival, however, including live music — country music, of course, Warren said.
Sue said another tradition that her mother has had for many years is getting a doughnut and coffee at the Manton Senior Center before the parade starts. She added that it’s interesting to see the same families at the parade — in the same spots year after year. For Warren and her family, the spot is just east of Hall Funeral Home.
“It’s a time when everyone gets together and catches up on what’s happened that year,” said Larry, who also is a lifelong Manton resident and Harvest Festival attendee.
When asked if she was planning to attend this year’s festival, Warren’s simple reply made the question seem a tad unnecessary.
“Well yeah,” she said matter-of-factly.
New to this year’s Manton Harvest Festival, which will be held from Friday, Sept. 2, to Monday, Sept. 5, will be lawn tractor pulls, a corn hole tournament, and a performance by the Scottville Clown Band in honor of longtime organizer Don Larson, who passed away earlier this year, along with Vickie Akers and Chuck Brandt.
In addition to the new events, this year’s festival will bring back many of the popular attractions of previous years, including a midway from Native Amusements, live music, car show, lumberjack competition and fireworks over Lake Billings. Also returning this year will be musical impersonations of artists such as Ronnie Milsap, Elvis, Olivia Newton-John and Rod Stewart.
Food trucks will be onsite during the entire festival, selling brats, hot dogs, burgers and tacos, among other items.