Fireworks over the Carmel, Indiana skyline with the water tower
Fireworks in the sky over Carmel

CarmelFest Expands to Offer Multigenerational Family Fun

CarmelFest is growing again. Through the years, the festival has grown exponentially. When it first started, it was primarily contained in Civic Square, the green space next to Carmel City Hall. This location has a large gazebo stage where entertainers perform.

“It’s large enough that the Carmel Symphony Orchestra plays on the Fourth, which is a tradition that goes back forever,” says Steve Krusie, a member of the Carmel Rotary Club leadership team. “They play right before the fireworks go off.”

Although CarmelFest has traditionally been located in this spot, in 2021, in an effort to spread people out following the COVID pandemic, they added a second location in Carter Green, located a couple hundred yards north of Civic Square.

“People loved that the festival felt more spacious,” Krusie says.

Adding Carter Green to the mix not only doubled the space for CarmelFest, but also enabled them to add two stages of professional entertainment, strategically segmenting the types of performances at each location. The gazebo stage has taken on an Americana/folksy/country vibe, while the stage at Carter Green offers a more contemporary blend of performers.

Each year, the Rotary Club has added more to the event, including rides and an increased number of marketplace and food vendors. Now CarmelFest has more robust and diversified food choices, offering both traditional Indiana State Fair food as well as international and vegetarian cuisine. This year, the Rotary Club is placing a Ferris wheel at Carter Green.

ferris wheel

“It’s an expensive proposition, but we’re hopeful this helps attract a broadly diversified crowd, including older teens and grandparents,” Krusie says. “We envision a multigenerational appeal.”

CarmelFest is the primary fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Carmel, as all proceeds are reinvested in the local community for local and regional service projects.

“This fundraiser makes it feasible for us to fund different philanthropic organizations in our community,” Krusie says.

Some of the local organizations they have supported through one-time community grants include Carmel Community Players, Carmel Education Foundation, and Children’s TheraPlay Foundation. They have provided financial support to Carmel Rotary Circle of Kindness, Merciful Help Food Pantry, as well as the Carmel Police Department and Fire Department. Plus, they provide consistent volunteer hours to Crooked Creek Food Pantry, Carmel Youth Assistance Program and Meals on Wheels, to name a few. This list is far from comprehensive.

CarmelFest’s parade is the second-largest in the state, behind the Indy 500 parade. It’s live-streamed on CBS 4 and INDY Facebook page beginning at 10 a.m., with interviews with the mayor and Grand Marshal Butch Patrick, who played Eddie Munster on the 1960s television show “The Munsters.” It’s the 60th anniversary of “The Munsters”, and Patrick will ride in the parade in the show’s iconic Dragula car.

People on a tandem bike in a parade
The CarmelFest parade rolls by

Bec Hunter, parade/media/public relations director for the CarmelFest parade, has been involved in parade planning since 2007. Each year she has added new components, bringing in local television and radio personalities, mascots, and military tributes.

Dave Dugan and Paul Mendenhall, both Carmel High School grads and radio personalities, will act as parade announcers. Dave Ryan, another Carmel High School alum, is handling the live stream through his company, Indy Business Promotions. The parade concludes with a military tribute grand finale, when all past, present and newly enlisted military personnel are welcome to participate.

“We’ve had people fly in from overseas to be included in the finale,” says Hunter. “In their honor, there is a military flyover by the Fort Wayne Air National Guard, in which they send two A-10 Warthog jets our way.”

The parade, which is estimated to attract 30,000-plus spectators, kicks off at 10:30 a.m., after the Carmel High School choir sings “The Star Spangled Banner”. This year they’ll have an expanded parade with marching bands from Carmel, Sheridan and Noblesville high schools. Also new this year will be drone shots of the parade.

The Rotary Club of Carmel partners with several community organizations who have generously provided financial and volunteer support. Merchants Bank of Indiana, Allied Solutions, Napleton Auto Group, and Everwise Credit Union have been extremely generous, as have Community Health Network, Old Town Design Group, and Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity.

“These businesses have stepped up in huge ways to make CarmelFest the success that it is,” Krusie says. “We’re so lucky to live in this city with such a family-friendly environment that includes people of all ages and backgrounds. That’s what the Fourth of July is meant to celebrate!”

CarmelFest takes place July 3 from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., and July 4 from noon to 10 p.m. For more information, visit

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