‘Olden Days’ name remains popular

Published 7:17 pm Monday, July 2, 2018

Informal survey shows wide support

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

The Olden Days name appears to be a keeper — or should be according to the majority of those who responded to an informal online and in-paper survey sponsored by The Smithfield Times.

As of Monday morning, the Facebook survey had received more than 150 responses. Many others called and emailed in their opinions. 

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“There is enough ham in town. Keep it olden,” said Cheryl Jarvis. 

There were a handful of other suggested names, including “The Genuine Smithfield Festival,” “History Days,” and “Remembrance Day.” {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

More than 55 wrote comments asking that the name “Olden Days” remained, and those comments collected about 45 “thumbs up.” Of the roughly 35 who emailed and called in comments, all but two favored keeping the name as is.  

However, there appeared to be some confusion as to why the festival and the name were getting another look.

Isle of Wight Tourism officials in May indicated that they were looking at ways to include more families and children, and a name change was one way to do that. 

The name “FamFest” came up, but Tourism has since said that was merely a placeholder until a permanent name was selected. 

In May, Tourism officials did not, however, point to a complaint in 2016 from Town Council member Denise Tynes about the name invoking memories of segregation and discrimination, as a reason for revamping the festival. 

According to Gina Ippolito with Smithfield VA Events, however, there have been a handful of brainstorming sessions with several groups regarding the future of the event and that “Olden Days” has a negative stigma for many in the community. 

“Moving forward, the Tourism Department just wants to ensure that the event is inclusive to all of its citizens,” said Ippolito, who criticized the newspaper for not including that history in its Facebook survey questions. 

The issue was not included because Tourism did not indicate that was an issue when the story was written in May.

Tourism Director Judy Winslow was unavailable for comment on Friday as she was busy putting on the Olden Days festival. She was also unavailable early Monday morning. 

Rick Bodson, speaking for Marion Wrenn with the Schoolhouse Museum Board, said the museum board had not specifically expressed opposition to the name, “Olden Days.”

“Several Board members participated in one or both brainstorming sessions hosted by Tourism which sought input on changes to make the event more family-focused and more inclusive. Event content, it was acknowledged, does not draw a diverse audience and Tourism sought input on how to address that issue,” said Bodson, who said in an email that he was speaking for Wrenn.

“The consensus opinion shared by Schoolhouse Museum board members was relative ambivalence about the name — neither outright opposition nor enthusiastic endorsement. The focus of the input was on activities, not the name,” wrote Bodson.

The Olden Days festival began in the early 1990s and focused on a symphony performance at Windsor Castle, a Victorian dance and a raft race. Over the years it evolved, and today, the event consists mostly of music, crafts, merchandise and food vendors, a car show, a kids bike and pet parade and the raft race.   {/mprestriction}