By Devese “Dee” Ursery
The 24th annual World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Festival is making its way back to the streets of Uptown Collinsville in honor of the iconic attraction’s 74th birthday.
The Festival will have family-friendly fun and games planned for visitors of all ages. The festivities start at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 8, at its new site in Herald Square, located at 119 East Clay Street. The summer festival will feature some traditional entertainment along with some new twists.
The inaugural World’s Largest Catsup Bottle Festival took place on June 13, 1999, on Main Street, in front of the Collinsville Library and the historic Blum House. It was established to honor the 50th anniversary of the Catsup Bottle’s creation. The backyard birthday theme has been the tradition since the Festival’s inception, according to Mike “The Big Tomato” Gassmann, chairman of the Catsup Bottle Preservation Group.
“The fest was structured like an old-fashioned backyard birthday party with thousands of your closest friends being invited,” Gassmann said. “ We continue with the birthday party themed concept to this day.”
Gassmann said the last annual birthday festival took place in 2017 and was in fact due to its own success.
“We were a very small committee and we were burned out,” Gassmann said. “2017 was incredible, it was so big and successful we were concerned that if we continued it would become unmanageable and the event would suffer and not be any fun for anyone any more.”
Gassmann explained that the decision to bring back the festival was brought on by conversations he had with the owner of Old Herald Brewery and Distillery, Derik Rieser.
“When he expanded and built the Herald Square location, he suggested it would be a great opportunity to hold the Catsup Bottle Festival there,” Gassmann said. “We thought the same thing and decided to go for it.”
Back in the day, when the event first started it was held in Uptown Collinsville all up and down Main Street. In 2007, the ninth anniversary of the festival was held under the Catsup Bottle water tower on South Morrison Street. From 2008 to 2014, the celebration was held at the American Legion Post 365 at 1022 Vandalia Street, until it was moved to Woodland Park in 2015.
“There are infrastructure advantages with the Herald Square location,” Gassmann said. “A permanent stage, indoor restrooms, food and drink readily available, plus we feel it’s a good thing for the uptown business district to create some foot traffic and highlight what the community has to offer.”
Gassmann said the event will feature the same family-fun activities from previous festivals, like the Little Princess Tomato and Sir Catsup contest. Participants in the contest must be three to six years old by the day of the contest. There are no residency restrictions, so every child is welcomed to register. In order to be qualified for the competition everyone must be pre-registered. There will be no registrations the day of the event.
Other festivities featured will be the Tater Tots and Hot Dog Smothered-In-Ketchup eating contests and a hula hoop competition. There will be an all-ages water balloon toss and visitors will also be able to enjoy old-fashioned party games and live music.
Gassmann said there will be a new activity added to this year’s celebration.
“New this year is the Mascot Madness Dance-Off,” Gassmann said. “The dance off will feature Louie from the St. Louis Blues, Izzy from the Gateway Grizzlies, and other corporate and collegiate mascots.”
More details and info can be found at www.catsupbottlefestival.com