ILION – For 29 years people have looked forward to the fun and festivities of Ilion Days. This year marks 30 years and promises to be bigger and better than ever.
Ilion Days began humbly in 1986 when a small group of village residents divined to create a summer event to keep people local.
The Rev. Leon Oaks-Lee, of the Ilion First Baptist Church and then junior member of the Herkimer County Chamber of Commerce, together with residents Lesa Decker, Bob and Anne Dreizler and Janet Darling set to work planning the affair, which centered on the now locally-famous Doo Dah Parade.
That first year the parade had a mere 25 participants and about 70 spectators. But the group persisted and the next year participation jumped to 100 and nearly a thousand others lined the route to watch.
Today the parade attracts marchers from across the state, including war re-enactors, bands, businesses, non-profit organizations, politicians and others looking to just have fun, as well as thousands of spectators.
And as the parade has grown these past 30 years, so has Ilion Days itself. The week-long festival now includes something for everyone.
The week starts with a village-wide garage sale, which this year boasts 90 individual sales, an American Red Cross Blood Drive and a Princess Pageant on Saturday, July 16. Throughout the week, there will be a sock hop, outdoor movie night featuring “Open Season 3,” a Civic Band concert and free ice cream social.
Friday, July 22, will see the Boy Scout Troop 9 Chicken Barbecue, Doo Dah Parade, block party and fireworks. Saturday’s events include the 5K road race, outdoor craft fair, Dog Show to benefit the Herkimer County Humane Society, children’s games and activities, face painting, caricatures by W.C. Pope and a little magic by Jeremy the
Illusionist. Things come to an end Sunday, July 24, with a Classic Car Show at London Towers, Ducky Race in Steel Creek, and Don Taylor Memorial 800M Run at the CVA track.
“That’s what Ilion Days is all about,” said Ilion Days Committee Chair Bettyjean Postiglione. “Giving people something fun to do here at home, and celebrating community. We do our best to have a little something for everyone.”
For the complete schedule and more information, visit www.iliondoodah.com.
This year, as Ilion Days celebrates 30 years, Remington Arms, the gun factory at the heart of the village, celebrates 200 years. To honor them, this year’s Ilion Days has been themed “Ilion – Home of Remington – Celebrating 200 Years.”
“Remington Arms has always been the driving force behind our village,” Postiglione explained. “It was here before the
village was even incorporated. We thought it only right that we honor them on their anniversary by theming Ilion Days around them.”
While the company has gone through many changes, with its headquarters moving to North Carolina in recent years and the local workforce fluctuating, there is no denying the important role the factory has always played in Ilion, nor the genuine fondness its founders had for their village.
As a gun factory, business for them boomed during the Civil War, Franco-Prussian War and both World Wars. But during peacetime, business lagged, sometimes so much so that many local residents found themselves out of work. Unsatisfied with that state of being, Remington Arms founder Eliphalet Remington II (pronounced Eli-fa-let) found other things for local residents to manufacture when the gun business slowed, including bicycles, typewriters and sewing machines.
Local residents returned the Remington’s fondness. For about 14 years, from 1838 until 1852, the area was known as Remington Corners. And when it came time to incorporate as a village, the most popular choice for an official name was just that, Remington Corners. Eliphalet Remington, however, was a modest man who shied away from the recognition and asked community officials not to name the village after him, and so the name Ilion was chosen instead.