Claud-Elen Days demonstrates Chillicothe’s ‘heart and soul’

By Elise Zwicky for Chronicle Media

The late Claude and Helen Prather started the Claud-Elen Days festival in Chillicothe in 1967 as a way to benefit the town’s ambulance service. The festival has continued to grow over the past 51 years and now raises funds for many area nonprofit groups. (Photo courtesy of Rhonda Prather-Tank)

Fifty-one years after it first began, Claud-Elen Days in Chillicothe kicks off again this week to fulfill a family’s legacy.

The family-friendly four-day festival will include a carnival, spaghetti supper, silent auction, live music and competitive games, according to Rhonda Prather-Tank, whose grandparents started the annual event in 1967.

“It was started by my grandparents, Claude and Helen Prather, to benefit what was at the time the North Chillicothe Fire Department ambulance service,” said Prather-Tank, who was only 8 years old at the time.

The event began as a benefit dinner for the ambulance service of which Prather-Tank’s father, Bill, was a member.

“There were about six guys—one was my father—and they basically had a station wagon that they transferred people to the hospital in,” Prather-Tank said. “That later became Rescue 33.”

The name for the festival came from the Prathers’ business, the Claud-Elen Tap, which is where the benefit dinners were held for the first several years.

“On the fifth year they moved it to downtown Chillicothe and added a carnival, entertainment and a parade, similar to what we have today,” Prather-Tank said.

Bill Prather eventually took over the festival from his parents and continued the tradition with the help of an advisory board until his death in 2015.

“In 1992—I remember the year because my son was just a few months old–someone wrote an article that said my father was turning the reins over to me, but I never really let him quite do that,” Prather-Tank recalled with a chuckle. “But I promised my dad I would keep it going to the 50th anniversary.”

Though that anniversary has passed, Prather-Tank is still helping an eight-member committee with this year’s planning. She’s the only Prather family member still involved but she hopes younger people in the community will keep the event going when she eventually bows out.

The advisory board was formed in 1982 and the festival then began sharing its profits with other area nonprofit organizations besides just Rescue 33. The festival has distributed $294,000 to not-for-profit community groups over the years, Prather-Tank said.

Jim and Laura Sniff hold a check they received last year from the Claud-Elen Days festival for their Blue Ridge Community Farm, which offers field trips and activities for special needs kids and adults. The Sniffs will bring some of their animals to display at this year’s festival, which runs June 6-9. (Photo courtesy of Claud-Elen Days)

“The majority of the money is made from the carnival and the silent auction,” she said. “We’re also entertaining the community. It’s the only carnival they have every year, and it’s one of only two parades.”

Nearly every business in Chillicothe provides items to the silent auction, which takes place  throughout the festival.  “What’s nice about the silent auction is everything is donated, so whatever we make there is pure profit. Sandi Riley does a really good job getting things for the silent auction,” Prather-Tank said.

New this year at the festival are monster trike races for kids and adults, a yard pong tournament and a youth dance.

“The monster trike will be a relay race with four-person teams. We’re charging $40 per team, but depending on how many teams there are, we will give half the money as a prize,” Prather-Tank said. Participants will ride down Second Street through an obstacle course on oversized tricycles. The 20-year-old and younger races start at 6 p.m. Friday followed by the 21 and older crowd at 8 p.m.

The yard pong tournament starts at 8 p.m. Saturday at the American Legion Beer Tent, and the youth dance with music by 309 Productions, starts at 8:30 p.m. on the City Park stage.

The late Bill Prather, whose family started Chillicothe’s Claud-Elen Days, posed in 2014 with representatives of a large group of nonprofit organizations that received funds raised during the festival. The festival has distributed $294,000 to not-for-profit community groups over the years. (Photo courtesy of Rhonda Prather-Tank)

Other events include a vendor fair on Second Street from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday; a spaghetti supper to benefit the July 4th fireworks from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the American Legion; the Mr. Chillicothe contest at 7 p.m. Friday at the City Park stage; a free showing of the movie “CoCo” at 9 p.m. Friday in City Park; the parade at 1 p.m. Saturday and the Miss Chillicothe pageant at 7 p.m. Saturday at the City Park stage.

“Claud-Elen days really does bring out a lot of the town,” Prather-Tank said. “Chillicothe is very supportive of their community. It amazes me the heart and soul people in Chillicothe show for other people.”


Laura and Jim Sniff, who own the nonprofit Blue Ridge Community Farm in Chillicothe that offers field trips for special needs kids and adults, will be bringing animals to Claud-Elen Days after the parade on Saturday for the first time to spread awareness about the farm.

“We are hoping to bring a couple of our donkeys and maybe a pair of alpacas for people to meet,” Laura said. “We really enjoy Claud-Elen Days. It’s a wonderful family event with many different activities throughout the weekend.”

The nonprofit Blue Ridge Community Farm has been a recipient of Claud-Elen Days funding, and the Sniffs daughter, Allison, is this year’s recipient of the second annual Claud-Elen Days William R. Prather Memorial Scholarship.

“She was very excited, honored and humbled to receive this, and it will be a great help to her in her pursuit of a degree in animal science at the University of Wisconsin in Madison,” Laura said of her daughter.

For more information about Claud-Elen Days, visit the event’s Facebook page at


Claud-Elen Days 2018 Schedule


Wednesday, June 6


6 p.m.–Carnival opens in City Park


Thursday, June 7


5 p.m.–Rescue 33 Food Tent opens

5 to 9 p.m.–Silent Auction at Firehouse

3 to 8 p.m.–Vendor Fair and Sidewalk Sales on Second Street

6 p.m.–Carnival opens

7 p.m.–Paint in the Park at City Park


Friday, June 8

4 to 8 p.m.–Spaghetti Supper to benefit July 4th fireworks at American Legion

5 p.m.–Carnival and Rescue 33 Food Tent open

5 to 9 p.m.–Silent Auction at Firehouse

6 p.m.–Plant sale at City Park stage

6 p.m.–Monster Trike races for 20 and under on Second Street

7 p.m.–Mr. Chillicothe Contest at City Park stage

8 p.m.–Monster Trike races for 21 and older on Second Street

8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.–Hoosier Daddy band at American Legion Beer Tent

9 p.m.–Movie “CoCo” at City Park


Saturday, June 9


7 to 11 a.m.–Pancake breakfast and Silent Auction at Firehouse

12 p.m.–Rescue 33 Food Tent opens

1 p.m.–Carnival opens and parade steps off on Second Street

2 p.m.–Cruiz’n on Second Street, Bags Tournament at American Legion Beer Tent

2 to 7 p.m.–Silent Auction at Firehouse

3 to 6 p.m.–Chamber of Commerce Quarter Auction at American Legion Pavilion

4 p.m.–Little Miss and Little Mr. Steamboat at City Park stage

6:15 p.m.–Hair Co. and Kids performance at City Park stage

7 p.m.–Miss Chillicothe Pageant at City Park stage

8 p.m.–Yard Pong tournament at American Legion Beer Tent

8 p.m. to 12 a.m.–West McQueen Street Band at American Legion Beer Tent

8:30 p.m.–Youth Dance with music by 309 Productions at City Park stage.