RIO GRANDE — Gallia community development and tourism leaders met with Bob Evans Restaurants CEO Saed Mohseni Monday to discuss the future of the Bob Evans Farm Festival, at the Bob Evans Farm, and its importance to the area’s tourism and economic futures.
“As we approach our fiftieth anniversary of the farm festival,” said the CEO,” we thought it would be a good idea to get everyone together to talk about what we’ll do for the next year… The Bob Evans Farm Festival is more than just a festival. It’s a community gathering and an opportunity and celebration of not only Bob Evans but the community itself. For the last 49 years, every event has had either local artists or musicians and food and it’s expanded to include (new things) and to showcase what we have to provide and what we can do. It’s not only about today’s generation but also to establish a habit for the next generation…The goal is to ensure that this tradition continues for years to come. With the economical impact this event has on the community, we believe that it’s a responsibility of ours to ensure that this tradition continues.”
Mohseni said Bob Evans reached out the community because of the coming 50th anniversary so it could hear of ways to enhance the festival.
“Community members asked me what happens beyond the 50 years, and I mentioned to them I firmly believe this is part of the DNA of the Bob Evans Company and we want to continue to improve on the (festival),” said Mohseni.
The CEO said that the festival had at times in the past not been a “positive cash flow event” for Bob Evans Restaurants but that it wanted to continue the tradition due to the fact the festival has been part of the company’s heritage. So long as people continue to come, Mohseni said the festival would continue.
“We need to get the word out though and we need support from the community so we can continue to do this,” said the CEO.
Mohseni said a cornerstone of the festival was its volunteer participation and the community groups that help make it possible.
“Basically the problem over the years is that sometimes the attendance can be low, depending on the weather,” said Gallia Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Amanda Crouse. “Generally for the most part, it’s pretty good. Saed has reached out to the community members and us to help get the word out about the festival and the support of the festival from them and us to keep it growing, year after year…We want people to understand where they’re coming from. It was a very positive meeting. We had a lot of community leaders there.”
Mohseni said the event has had over 100 Bob Evans employees take part in the October weekend festival yearly with help from other businesses, services and attractions. Over 150 volunteers also help to make the festival possible, he said.
“I was out there as a hotel owner and county commissioner,” said Gallia Commissioner David Smith. “We wanted to make sure that (Mohseni) understood the importance of the Farm Festival to Gallia County as far as tourism and economic development (tool). He’s committed to continuing it after the 50th year, which has been in question, and we want to make sure we get that out to people so everyone knows next year is not the last year. It’s important that we as the local residents support the festival, not only as going there, but to working and exhibiting there. (Mohseni) wanted to make sure that was part of his message.”
According to the CEO, around 23,000 people visited over the festival’s three day weekend in mid-October. Some of those visitors traveled as far as Canada to visit the festival and Rio Grande.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.