country ham festival

Spring Hill’s annual Country Ham Festival returns this Saturday, Oct. 1, with organizers having worked since New Year’s Day to bring it all together.

For Andy Meldrum, co-director of the festival, the aim is to “exceed expectations” year after year, improving each incarnation of the event with new attractions and features.

“This year, as with others, we are always trying to exceed expectations,” Meldrum said. “John Maher Builders is the title sponsor for 13th year in row. I’ve known John for long time, and that’s how he built his business – to exceed expectations. People who walk into their new homes built by him always say, ‘I can’t believe got a house this nice for how much money I paid.’”

“Our goal has always been to follow that – to exceed expectations, so that the festival gets neater and cooler each year.”

Organizers aim to rebound from last year’s Ham Fest, which suffered a drop in attendance as a result of the rain and cold that persisted throughout the day. The hot air balloon “glow display” intended to conclude last year’s festival ultimately was cancelled because of the weather.

The forecast for Saturday is partly cloudy with a high of 75 degrees and a low of 50. There is only a 10-percent chance of precipitation in the forecast.

“This year we will have zip lines, a mechanical bull, climbing rock walls, inflatables and monster truck rides,” Meldrum said. “We’ll have a helicopter, skydivers, the Spring Hill Quicksteps will be playing an all-star team made up of vintage baseball players from around the area – that’s brand new.”

“We’ll have probably 100 arts and crafts and local business people and we’ll have 20-24 food vendors, as well as a whole alignment of entertainment.”

Meldrum has served as co-director alongside Jim Sterling for six to seven years now. For him, the festival is less about fundraising or making money than it is about simply providing a free and open public festival for Spring Hill.

Admission to the event is free, although organizers are encouraging attendees to bring along three cans of food to donate to The Family Center of Columbia. In return, donors get entered into a drawing for a full country ham.

“Whatever we make, we put right back into the festival,” Meldrum said. “It’s not about raising funds for anyone as much as it is a community festival, a good fall festival for the community. What’s important is that it happens.”

“As I tell folks, when the kids come through the gates and see the festival, it’s like Christmas morning for them. They don’t have to know the logistics or how it all happened. All they see is all these games, slides, the music playing, and it’s all free.”

The Country Ham Festival will be held on the grounds of the Tennessee Children’s Home from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1. For more information on the various attractions, food and entertainment offered, visit www.countryhamfest.com.

The only entrance to the HamFest will be from Kedron Road. Although the actual address of the Tennessee Children’s Home is Branham Hughes Blvd., all the usual main entrances will be closed on the day of the event.

Quint Qualls covers Spring Hill for Home Page Media Group. Reach him at quint@springhillhomepage.com.

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