WASHINGTON — It's been a spring filled with chilly days, cold nights, drenching rains, fierce storms and even a few tornadoes.
But Mother Nature is smiling on the annual Washington Good Neighbor Days presented by the Washington Chamber of Commerce.
Perfect weather Wednesday and Thursday on the first two days of the five-day festival has attracted large crowds. The forecast is mostly promising through Sunday.
"We were nervous about the weather," said chamber spokeswoman Gail Nettles. "But it's been awesome."
Parking lots on the festival grounds and next door at the former Tractor Supply Company were filled Thursday evening.
The Community Night Dinner (moved from its usual Wednesday spot to Thursday), Christian Concert Night, Teen Night, entertainment in the beer garden, pony rides, carnival and concessions like "Deep Fried Delights" were big draws.
Meanwhile, the Community Showcase tent featured an eclectic mix of not-for-profits and other organizations.
Among them were the Washington-based Threads, Hope & Love ministry, Girl Scouts of Central Illinois, Legion Riders from Washington American Legion Post 100 and Mechanical Monarchy, Washington Community High School's robotics team.
There also was Washington Citizens Engaged in Public Safety, a group of five former Washington Fire Department rescue squad members which is perhaps best known in the community for raising funds to purchase 10 crosswalk signs that were placed strategically around the city last year.
The signs were donated to the city, which bought three additional signs.
More signs are needed, according to group spokesman Steve Hullcranz.
"Ten more," he said. "For example, I'd like for the chamber to have two of them at their office on the (downtown) square. The signs can be used when there are events at the square.
"In addition to alerting motorists about a crosswalk, the signs are a traffic calming device. People slow down when they see them."
Washington Citizens Engaged in Public Safety group members were busy Thursday selling blue bulbs that show support for police and passing out wallet-sized laminated cards that contain non-emergency phone numbers.
They also had brochures available on topics ranging from how to legally transport a firearm to winter survival and an Ameren bill paying scam.
Washington residents with public safety concerns could leave information, even anonymously, at the group's table.
"We'll make sure the concerns get to the proper people," Hullcranz said.
One resident recommended that a crosswalk sign be placed on Bobolink Drive near the Central Intermediate School and Central Primary School campus.
This is the second year the public safety group has been in the festival's Community Showcase. It will be in the Merchants Tent for the first time Friday and Saturday.
Orange whistles on a lanyard will be available for adults those nights.
Threads, Hope & Love and the WHIP (Washington Helps Its People) food pantry will supply volunteers for the chamber's festival food tent Saturday in exchange for 20 percent of the food tent profits from Friday and Saturday.
Threads founder Cindy Shuford said Thursday her volunteers are ready to work Saturday. So is someone not affiliated with Threads who wants to donate time to help the ministry, she said.
Friday highlights at the festival include Toddler Town inflatables from 5 to 8 p.m., the inaugural Little Miss Washington pageant from 6 to 7 p.m., presentation of the Good Neighbor Award at 9:30 p.m. and fireworks at 9:45 p.m.
Saturday highlights include the Washington Rotary Club's pancake breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m., 5K run and 1-mile walk at 7:30 a.m., family bike ride at 11 a.m., pie eating contest from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Kidz Got Talent competition from 4 to 6 p.m. and fireworks at 9:30 p.m.
There will be entertainment both days on the main stage and in the beer garden.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.