Oil Heritage Festival back to full capacity this year

After last year’s abridged Oil Heritage Festival, things are on track for Oil City’s annual summer celebration to return to full capacity this year.

Among the highlights will be a couple of big-name bands in Justus Park and the return of the Heritage parade.

“Very much what we did pre-pandemic for Oil Heritage Festival is back,” said Susan Williams, president of the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce. “Last year we were happy just to be able to hold the festival at all…many festivals just didn’t happen last year,” she added.

The theme for this year’s 43rd Oil Heritage celebration is “Oil City 150” to coincide with the city’s year-long observance of its 150th birthday. The festival runs from Thursday, July 22, to Sunday, July 25, and a number of pre-festival events are also on tap starting July 16.

One note on the calendar that seems sure to be a hit based on talk around town is the appearance of popular Pittsburgh-area band The Clarks for a concert Saturday, July 24, in Justus Park.

The Clarks, a rock band that originated at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, have been favorites on the western Pennsylvania music scene for 35 years. The band has produced 11 studio albums, two live albums, two compilation albums, an EP and four solo releases over the years.

“People are thrilled about The Clarks coming, courtesy of the City of Oil City,” Williams said. She added there will be no fee to attend the concert.

A fireworks spectacular will follow the concert.

Local headliners Lawyers, Guns and Money will perform in Justus Park on Friday, July 23. Other musical acts lined up either before or during the festival include the Pine Valley Boys, Max Schang’s Trio of Blues and Mostly Brass.

Williams is happy the parade will be back in its usual Saturday spot after it was canceled last year due to COVID concerns.

She said that within five minutes of putting the parade registration form on the chamber’s website, the first registration had arrived.

Typically, Williams said about 70 to 80 units sign up for the parade.

“It makes our job much easier if the registration is in sooner rather than later,” she said.

Williams said the festival schedule is up on the chamber’s website, and she said several more events may be added in the coming weeks.

Festival-goers can look forward to other old favorites such as the art show, artisan and fine craft festival, library book sale, car show, queen crowning, YWCA spaghetti dinner and the FLEX ice cream social. Several children’s activities are also on tap.

New this year will be a historic church tour on July 24, Williams said.

“There will be no 5K this year…hopefully that will be returning in 2022,” Williams said.

Buttons will be on sale and basket raffle tickets will be available at the festival headquarters at 42 Seneca St., Williams said.

Pre-festival events include the Hop Homan & Chops Cunningham memorial softball tournament and the FLEX Bike ‘n Brew. Williams said tickets to the on-site version of the Bike n’ Brew are available and there will also be a off site option.

“We are really excited to welcome people to the region this year after we were unable to do that last year,” Williams said.