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Town, Weary of Sewer Work, Celebrates ‘SewerFest’

July 22, 1989

OBERLIN, Ohio (AP) _ The majorettes twirled plungers. Others banged on bedpans and blasted on kazoos as 150 residents of this college town marched and stumbled down Main Street to celebrate the final stage of a sewer project.

The tongue-in-cheek celebration called SewerFest gave residents a chance Friday to vent their frustration at sewer construction that has thrown car alignments out of whack and forced motorists into long, convoluted routes.

″Didn’t you love the noises? It was wonderful,″ beamed Marion B. Kelly, one of hundreds who lined the main street of this picturesque town of 8,860, about 30 miles southwest of Cleveland.

Parade marchers embodied the necessary and the unlovely. Some dressed as sewer rats; others wore construction overalls and draped drain-cleaning equipment around their necks. Many marchers wore plungers on their heads.

Among the floats were a sewer cleaning cart marked ″Sewer Busters″ and a wooden outhouse - door flapping open and shut - carted on a trailer. A caravan of a dozen dump trucks blasted their horns.

The Oberlin Downtown Merchants Association, sponsor of SewerFest, set a theme of ″Alternative Transportation Methods for Oberlin Streets″ and invited folks to climb onto bicycles and skateboards before joining the parade.

Since last fall, city crews have ripped up streets and set up barricades to upgrade an aging sewer system overtaxed by storm water runoff.

″It’s kind of getting there,″ said Karen Smith, assistant public works director for the city, which is the home of Oberlin College. ″We’ve got a target completion of Aug. 31 for the bulk of the sewer work on the streets.″

She said one problem was two main streets were under construction at the same time.

″I’ve had the advantage of knowing what’s going on day to day,although I’ve forgotten a few detours from time to time. People who usually can just run down the street to the grocery store now have to go two miles around,″ she said.

Yvonne Hazlett, who braved the road hurdles from nearby Elyria so that she could march in the parade, also lamented the situation.

″Oh, it’s terrible. You can’t go east, you can’t go west. The streets are all banged up,″ she said as she leaned on her plunger.

She wore a rubber rat taped to her shirt.

Some participated in SewerFest in a more sedate manner, by entering the essay contest.

Entrants wrote about their worst experiences poking past the city’s broken streets and trenches in hopes of winning a suitable prize: a front-end alignment for their car.