CarmelFest had a modest beginning with then-Carmel Mayor Dottie Hancock and then-Carmel Chamber of Commerce Director Nancy Blondin having the idea for a Fourth of July celebration in 1988. The festival was small with a few booths, food tables and games.
The event drew about 200 people in 1989 at the Carmel High School Athletic Facility. It moved to its current home of Carmel Civic Square in 1994 with the parade starting to grow larger crowds. In 2004, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard asked the Rotary Club of Carmel to organize the event and help it grow.
An estimated crowd of 50,000 attended the 25th anniversary in 2013.
The Rotary Club of Carmel continues to run the event. Except for the fireworks, the event was canceled in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. But it is set for a full return July 4-5 with the parade July 5.
“The CarmelFest Chair has traditionally been filled by a Carmel Rotarian,” CarmelFest chair Steve Krusie said. “However, the sub-committee chairs aren’t necessarily Carmel Rotarians, and if not, they typically will be connected with a Carmel Rotarian that convinced them their skill set would serve CarmelFest in a specific manner. Historically, the majority of volunteers have been members of Carmel Rotary, but in 2019 and what I’m observing this year is that the majority of volunteers come from other Carmel community service organizations, churches and businesses with headquarters or significant employees located in Carmel.”
Any profits from CarmelFest are used by the Rotary Club to support organizations and programs. Krusie said an overview of those organizations that have benefited from past fundraising efforts of CarmelFest include: Merciful Help Food Pantry, Carmel Clay Schools, Trinity Free Clinic, Children’s TherAplay, Assistance League of Indianapolis, School on Wheels, Same As U, Janus Development Services, Carmel Rotary Circle of Kindness, Children’s Organ Transplant Association and the Holiday Assistance Program through both Carmel Fire Dept. and Carmel Police Dept.
The Carmel Rotary Club meets every week, usually Friday, during the noon hour at Woodland Country Club. There are monthly social hours typically on the second Thursday evening at Wolfies Bar & Grill.
Krusie said anyone interested in learning more about Rotary and the local club should visit CarmelRotary.com or the Facebook page of CarmelRotaryClub.
Those interested in the joining the community service organization that engages in both local and international service projects should send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.