BELPRE - Everything is in full swing for the 80th annual Belpre Homecoming Festival, which will begin Thursday evening in Civitan Park.
"After 80 years of doing something, we need to improve on what we've done and I think this year shows that improvement," said Teresa Turner with the Belpre Area Chamber of Commerce. "Our biggest goal for Homecoming is to improve it and make the event better each year."
Thursday will include not only the opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. at the park gazebo, but also the first "Healthy Youth and Families Night."
"This is something new we wanted to try to get kids and families involved," Turner said.
The biggest draw of the first night will include a free concert by up-and-coming teen band New Hollow, which will begin at 8:30 p.m.
"We have had a ton of interest in the New Hollow concert," Turner said.
The Columbus-based band featuring Mick Clouse, Chad Blashford and Evan West began as an anti-bullying music group and now has a national following. The members of New Hollow formed the band in 2009. They're all originally from different states, but met while attending high school in New Albany, Ohio, when they started playing together.
In the past two years, the group has debuted at No. 1 three times on Billboard's Single (physical) Sales Chart, the youngest band ever to do that, and its second single, "Boyfriend," topped Billboard's 2011 Year End Single Sales Chart.
The group performed at Belpre Elementary School in January where it attracted the attention of several chamber members and Homecoming board officers, Turner said.
Also Thursday will be the Junior Miss Belpre pageant at 7 p.m. at the gazebo.
The entertainment for Friday will include locals Taylor Sams and Cody Nutter at 7:30 p.m. before "American Idol" finalist Casey James takes the stage at 9 p.m.
Saturday's music acts will include Mirror Mirror at 8 p.m., with Modern Superstar taking the stage at 9:30 p.m.
"We have an array of different types of music this year and our entertainment is drawing people from all over into Belpre," Turner said.
Families from as far away as Michigan, Virginia and Indiana are expected to visit the Mid-Ohio Valley for the New Hollow concert and stay for the weekend, she said.
Saturday will also include the Belpre Mile at 9:40 a.m., the annual Homecoming Parade up Washington Boulevard at 10 a.m. and the Miss Teen and Miss Belpre pageants at 7 p.m.
The Belpre Homecoming Festival schedule includes:
* 6 p.m.: Carnival rides and games with the "Healthy Youth and Families Night"
* 6:30 p.m.: Opening ceremonies with the lighting of the torch
* 7 p.m.: Junior Miss Belpre pageant
* 8:30 p.m.: New Hollow on the Suddenlink Main Stage
* 5 p.m.: Cruise-in
* 6 p.m.: Carnival rides and games; Little Miss and Little Mister pageant
* 6:30 p.m.: Cornhole registration at the Civitan Park basketball court
* 7:30 p.m.: Taylor Sams with Cody Nutter on the Suddenlink Main Stage
* 7:40 p.m.: Cornhole singles tournament
* 9 p.m.: Casey James on the Suddenlink Main Stage
* 7 a.m.: Buddy Bass Fishing Tournament at the Belpre boat ramp
* 9 a.m.: Kids Fishing Derby at the Civitan Park pond
* 9:40 a.m.: Belpre Mile Run and Walk at Howes Grove Park
* 10 a.m.: 80th annual Belpre Homecoming Parade
* 11:30 a.m.: Cornhole registration at the Civitan Park basketball court
* Noon: Carnival rides matinee open until 4 p.m.
* 12:40 p.m.: Cornhole doubles tournament
* 1 p.m.: Fireman's Challenge in the pool parking lot
* 6 p.m.: Carnival rides and games
* 7 p.m.: Miss Teen and Miss Belpre pageants in the gazebo
* 8 p.m.: Mirror Mirror on the Suddenlink Main Stage
* 9:30 p.m.: Modern Superstar on the Suddenlink Main Stage