By Bruce Stambaugh
Ever experience a wooly worm contest? Ever want to go to Charm School? Ever watch a scoop shovel race?
You can do all that and much more October 8 and 9 in the little village of Charm, Ohio, located in a part of Amish country often overlooked by many tourists. If you are one of them, you don’t know what you are missing.
Charm Days began in 1987 with just a few businesses in the quaint and quiet unincorporated town holding a customer appreciation day sale, according to Ed Raber, one of the original organizers.
“Once the idea to expand the event to raising funds to help people was adopted,” Raber said, “we knew we had to reach beyond our little community to make it successful.”
Raber said the planners picked the second week in October to time Charm Days with the changing of the leaves. Charm sits in a small valley surrounded by unglaciated hillsides that hold a patchwork of farm fields stitched together with impressive deciduous tree lines.
During Charm Days, the folksy schedule of events swells the town’s population from 80 to 6,000, and no one goes away disappointed. Contests, food, fun, auctions and just plain old-fashioned curiosity attract thousands of people to the two-day event, coordinated by a long list of volunteers.
Raber emphasized that all the proceeds go to benefit the Charm Community Share and Care Fund. Raber said it was the decision to turn Charm Days from a special sale by merchants into an entertaining, fun-driven way to raise money for local needs that really turned the corner for the event.
“The first auction lasted 10 minutes with only a handful of items,” Raber remembered. “Now the auction lasts five hours.” Raber said that how the donations of auction items arrive is indicative of the generosity of the community.
“Nobody goes door-to-door asking for items,” Raber said. “People just know to bring things in.” A silent auction will also be held for Hospice of Holmes County.
Most of the events take place under a large tent that fills the grass playground of Charm Elementary School, where Amish children attend kindergarten and first grade. That allows Charm Days to go on rain or shine.
The festival kicks off with the Wooly Worm Derby, an event that alone is worth the trip to Charm. This year 124 children will coax their wooly worms up dangling strings. The teachers from Charm School will also participate, and there will even be a wooly worm race involving local merchants. It should be interesting to see if the adults behave as well as the children.
Each food stand at Charm Days raises money for local individuals and families who have experienced a devastating catastrophe. For example, the proceeds from one lunch stand will go to help a 17-year old boy who was severely injured after being kicked by a horse. Unfortunately, the young man has now developed cancer.
“We work with the bishops of Amish churches to help organize the bake sales,” Raber said. “The bake sales usually generate between $5,000 and $6,500.”
Even Friday’s volleyball tournament makes everybody a winner. Upon registering the teams, which numbered about 50 last year, designate what organization or person they want their winnings to go to. First place gets $500, second $300, third $200 and all the other participating teams $100 each for their particular charity.
Friday evening’s entertainment features three local favorites, Liberated 4 Him, The Glick Family, and Holmes County Bluegrass. The music starts at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s activities begin bright and early at 7 a.m. with the Flea Market. At 8:30 a.m., the Horseback Fun Show begins. Participants are expected to arrive an hour earlier to register for each event, according to Ray Raber, who is organizing the equestrian contests.
The horse show will take place near the intersection of SR 557 and CR 600 just south of Charm. Raber listed eight events, each with three different divisions. All are open to the public to participate in as well as watch. Ray Raber said the horse races would be completed prior to the auction beginning.
The benefit auction is the main event of Charm Days, hopefully raising $40,000 for the share and care fund. A Trip Around the Star queen-sized quilt, done in various browns and teals, is one of the highlights of the sale. Pieced by a Charm resident, about 20 local women hand-quilted the lovely piece in just two days.
Another specialty item to be auctioned off is one of only three replica grandfather walnut clocks of the original one built by Keim Lumber founder Moses Keim. Other quilts and merchandise, including many other handcrafted items, will also be sold.
By all accounts, it’s a festival you really don’t want to miss. Charm is located six miles south of Berlin on SR 557.
Charm Days schedule of events
Friday, October 8
– 1 p.m., Wooly Worm Derby
– 6:30 p.m., Volleyball for Charity
– 7 p.m., Old Time Fiddle Playing
Saturday, October 9
– 7 a.m., Flea Market
– 8:30 a.m., Horseback Fun Show
– 11 a.m., Benefit Auction
– 4 p.m., Drawings from participating merchants with a $1,000 cash grand prize.
Horseback Fun Show Schedule
– Obstacle Course Race, which is a new event
– Water Relay, where three different groups try to fill a bucket with water carried in a glass cup while on horseback.
– 100-yard dash for riders with ponies 50” and under.
– 200-yard dash for riders with horses over 50”.
– Pole Bending, which is similar to barrel racing.
– Stick Horse Race for children five years old and under.
– Scoop Shovel Racing, where a horse rider pulls another person riding a scoop shovel.
– Barrel Racing.
Events that occur throughout each day include:
– Benefit lunch stands
– Benefit bake sales
– Homemade barbecued chicken
– Homemade ice cream
– Homemade soft pretzels
– Kettle chips made fresh
– Kettle corn made on the premises
– Community Silent Auction for Hospice of Holmes County