When the 2015 Marion Popcorn Festival Parade steps off at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 10 – 35 years later to the day – three who were an integral part of the Festival’s birth will be leading the festivities.
Norma Castanien, Mike Nicolosi, and Pat Regules have been tapped as the 2015 Grand Marshals.
When she was approached to be the secretary/treasurer for an event’s newly formed committee, Castanien accepted and thus began her 35 years as an active part of the Marion Popcorn Festival in a number of different roles. In addition to her initial role, Castanien has been both first and second vice president, president, trustee, currently sits on the advisory committee, and has been Kernel Sponsorship Seating Chairman since 1994.
Retired from GTE Telcom Marketing, Castanien has also been very active in a number of other charities including Altrusa International and the Red Cross Radiothon. She has been the recipient of the Pearl Roberts Senior Volunteer of Marion County in 2005, the Miriam Wolf Altrusa Award in 2007, and the Legion of Honor Hall of Fame of the Ohio Festival and Events Association in 2008. Originally from York Center, Ohio, Castanien has three children – Jan Castanien, Jill Draper, and Dean Castanien, as well as three grandchildren.
Part of the founding committee, Nicolosi served as a vice president the first two years, becoming president of the Festival in 1983 and 1984. He has also been a trustee, director, worked concessions, and the beer gardens over the years. Nicolosi is currently a member of the Festival’s Advisory Committee.
A life-long resident of Marion, Nicolosi graduated from the Culinary Institution of America. He is retired from restaurant ownership, car wash, and real estate. He is currently the business manager at St. Mary Church, and has been affiliated with Rotary International and the MTC Foundation. Nicolosi and his wife, Phyllis, are the parents of two children – Christina and Rocco (deceased) – as well as three grandchildren.
The Festival’s first director and only two-time president, Regules is still an integral part of the backstage set up and execution to this day. He has also been a trustee and remains a part of the Festival’s advisory committee.
Retired from General Telephone Company, Regules has been an entrepreneur. He has also been associated with the Shriner’s, VFW, Greek Orthodox Church of Columbus, Lion’s Club, and Moose Lodge. A graduate of Marion Technical College, Regules has been a life-long resident of Marion. He and his wife, Kathy, have three children – Chuck Regules, Jaime (Athanasia) Regules, and Andrea (Terry) Honaker – as well as seven grandchildren.
The groups recalls that Marion was coming off several years of an economic downturn when a group of 20 businessmen put together a Festival designed to – quoting the bylaws – “first, further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community by promoting and sponsoring an annual summer festival in and about the street, ways, and public places in about the City of Marion. Second, to promote the community throughout the State of Ohio and the nation, and, third, to contribute to the economy of the Marion area and foster civic pride and community spirit. By having a quality festival,” Nicolosi said, “we felt we could show Ohio and the nation the spirit of Marion.” He concedes those were pretty lofty goals for a celebration that was put together in just a few months’ time, with no prior event to build on and no seed monies to start. On September 10, 1981, the very first Popcorn Parade stepped off with the theme “A New Beginning”. Thirty-five years later, the Festival is still going strong following the blueprint the original organizers laid out.
When asked why they have stayed so involved the past 35 years, both Castanien and Regules said, “Because it’s fun. We enjoy the festival, we enjoy the comradery, and we enjoy doing something for our community.”
“We are truly honored,” said Mary Dutton, Marion Popcorn Festival Parade Chairman, “to have as grand marshals these individuals who have not only given so much to the Festival for the past 35 years, but the Marion community, as well.”
In its 35th year, the Marion Popcorn Festival is the largest popcorn festival in the world with an annual attendance estimated in excess of 250,000 over the three-day festival. Main stage entertainment for 2015 includes Straight On: Heart Tribute Band on Thursday, September 10; country star Rodney Atkins on Friday, September 11, and rock band Warrant on Saturday, September 12. All performances on the Festival’s main stage begin at 8:30 p.m. and are free of charge. A limited number of Kernel sponsorship seats are available for any of the main stage performances by calling 740-383-2076.
Other events include the Popcorn Parade with over 300 units, a popcorn cooking contest, a fine art show, crafts, Popcorn 5000 5K run, Popcorn 100 bike tour, the Community Showcase Stage, the Hometown Talent Stage, the Poppin’ Party Stage, and more.
For more information on the full slate of activities, browse our website or call 740-387-FEST. The Marion Popcorn Festival is sponsored in part by the City of Marion.