The Rittman Sleepwalker Festival is a community celebration that remembers a time when there was such high traffic through Rittman that merchants would need to keep late business hours and often end up wearing pajamas or nightclothes.
The festival is a smaller festival, but with all the food, games, vendors and entertainment necessary to make it memorable.
2023 DATE: July 28-29, 2023
Location: Downtown Rittman
This post documents my experience on July 23, 2010.
As the weekend approached, I thought about the trip to the Rittman Sleepwalker Festival. Granted, the name was intriguing and the pet parade sounded entertaining. But, as the temperatures rose into the 90’s and the online map showed a 1.25 hour drive to the small country town, I asked myself whether it would be worth it.
Without the proximity of a larger city, I knew there wouldn’t be a large crowd. This also meant a smaller food selection and not as much to offer. It was also near Wadsworth, and I really didn’t like that festival.
I was having second thoughts.
Julia would be coming along on this trip, so I brought up my hesitation to her. But rather than being pessimistic of the turnout, she seemed really enthusiastic about the festival. She reinforced that the Sleepwalker Festival would bring more variety to the festivals that I’ve been frequenting.
I guess I was surprised by her reaction, but I nodded and kept it in the plans. I even got a little excited about it in the end.
By Friday afternoon, there was a heat advisory in effect as we drove into the Ohio countryside with the air conditioning blasting. It looked like a beautiful day outside the car windows. The sky looked blue. The sun was bright. At the same time, the outside temperature reading wavered between 98 and 100.
At one point, as Julia talked to her dad via cell phone, she excitedly announced our journey to the Sleepwalker Festival.
“It’s called the Sleepwalker Festival because there’s a pajama factory in town,” she told him.
I turned to her as my festival excitement evaporated. There was no pajama factory. The festival’s name came from the town’s history, when more people traveled through Rittman in the early 1900’s. Stores stayed open later and, as a result, merchants were often in their nightclothes or pajamas. Hence…the sleepwalker.
As she realized that this might not be so unique a festival, I looked at the navigation and we were already more than halfway there. There was no reason to second guess this trip a second time…we were going to Rittman.
We arrived to an area where there was a closed-off road near a plaza with an IGA supermarket. A doughnut vendor partially hid the sign we were looking for.
Can’t see it?
Neither could we, really.
We parked in the lot and got out, the heat grabbing hold of us immediately. There was nothing all that impressive in that parking lot…
…just rides, fair food and reminders of small town country life.
Within a few minutes, Julia already looked like she was ready to go. The heat was intense and I already had a layer of sweat envelop me, even with the rather strong breeze . But, I knew, with the closed-off road, that there HAD to be more. I knew there was at least a stage for the “Rittman Area’s Got Talent” event, which I read about on the website.
I asked about the festival to a woman walking her cart back to her car, but she wasn’t too sure. Fortunately, by pointing to small groups of people heading down the closed-off street, I was able to convince Julia to risk our lives under the scorching sun to search for more funnel cake vendors.
Our efforts were quickly rewarded. There were, in fact….
…other food vendors…
…a dunking booth…
…a $3 transfer train…
…that stage I was talking about…
…and some local Rittman pride.
They even had Plinko.
But, apart from the Plinko, there really wasn’t anything that grabbed my interest. The Sleepwalker Festival was pretty much everything that I had expected.
Going just passed the downtown, I noticed a car show going on. But, by that point, Julia decided to hang back in the shade while I went to check it out.
At this point, the sun only seemed to beat down harder.
We were minutes away from the children’s pajama contest and pet parade. Part of me wanted to stick around for it, but I saw Julia – hungry, tired, hot – and I told myself that a pet parade at a festival this size would only lead to further disappointment. Perhaps if we had left the house 20 minutes later. Perhaps if we had eaten before (because we couldn’t eat the fair food present in that heat).
We headed back to the car in the IGA parking lot, passing a small crowd of people who rummaged through the Crazy Band stand…
…trying to get some before they all melted.