Made in Ada Wilson Football Festival
Ohio Life

Made in Ada Wilson Football Festival

The Ohio city that makes the footballs for every NFL game, including the biggest matchup of the year, celebrates its pigskin heritage.

Everywhere Mayor Dave Retterer goes, he encounters people who know one thing about the northwest Ohio city of Ada where he’s been mayor for 14 years: “They all say, ‘That’s where they make the footballs.’ ”

The Hardin County town’s Wilson factory has supplied the NFL since 1955. In fact, on the Sunday night after the league’s conference championship games are played, Wilson employees — many of whom have been employed at the factory for decades — come in to start work on the footballs used during the Super Bowl, which feature the names of both teams on them.

So, in 2017, the city decided to have a little fun with its football heritage and hosted the inaugural Made in Ada Wilson Football Festival on the night before Super Bowl Sunday. The event’s signature moment — dropping a 10-foot-long lighted Wilson football at midnight — was originally conceived as a New Year’s Eve event. Amy Hilan, one of the organizers of the Made in Ada Wilson Football Festival, says that celebration never materialized, but the football drop idea was revived when talk turned to the town’s February festival.

Last year, there were games, a free movie, a panel discussion in cooperation with Ohio Northern University and, of course, tailgating that culminated in the midnight football drop. Even on a northern Ohio night in February, people were thrilled to hang out around town. Some in attendance even stuck around 30 or 45 minutes after the football drop to get their photo taken with it.

“People are adventurous,” Hilan says. “The enthusiasm and joy of the moment was infectious last year. It’s what the committee’s highest hopes were, and it happened. It’s great fun, and we want to be even better this year.”

This year’s festival, set for Feb. 3, will offer more of the same, with games, panel discussions and a free movie, “Draft Day,” starring Kevin Costner as a Browns general manager who makes wild trades and comes out successful at the end.

“We figured that was apropos,” Hilan says.