SkunkFest ‘09 comes to the Heights

SkunkFest '09's official welcome center. Photo by Anna Roma.

It’s a tradition as old as the hills. Every year during the first week of April, the participants appear as if from nowhere to partake in that fabulously fragrant phenomenon known as SkunkFest.

“It’s kind of like our own version of Mardi Gras,” says Anna Roma, marketing coordinator for the Festival. “It takes your mind off those long months of holing up under the porch in a state of semi-hibernation, ya know? It’s good to get out and just shake your tail a bit.” It's estimated that, despite the down economy, as many as 700,000 skunks may visit the Heights area for SkunkFest ‘09, bringing an economic and olfactory impact that is hard to ignore.

“Is always wonderful to visit Heights area for SkunkFest,” says visitor Witold Nostrille, who points out that Cleveland Heights is especially accommodating among Heights-area communities because residents place their trash on treelawns in flimsy plastic garbage bags. “Feast for king!”

It’s about more than dining in style, though — SkunkFest is also a time for the display of high fashion, as coats in every striped and spotted variation of black and white vie for attention and the air is perfumed with the delicate scents of this year’s latest fragrances. Indeed, the festival has garnered such buzz that the international edition of Suburban Mammal Vogue has reportedly sent at least three society reporters to mingle incognito among the throngs and offer ground-level reports on all the action.

Some worry that the Festival has gotten a bit too popular. “It’s not the same as it was a few years back,” says Urs Tench, a Festival veteran. “Used to be it counted for something. Standards were higher. Everybody cared. That’s all changed now. Just a lot of carousing in the dark making a big stink about everything.”

Others worry about the younger set, as one anonymous female intimated. “You know these kids today, they got no scents.”

But most share the more positive outlook of Linnae Dégouté. “To me it’s just a reminder that spring is here and we can look forward to seven solid months of waddling around in the shadows, entertaining dog owners, and keeping lawns properly aerated for robust root health.”

Early organizers debated whether to hold the Festival annually on the first day of spring or to tie it to the April 15 income tax filing deadline, but settled on April 1 as the official kickoff date. Since then, SkunkFest has grown in popularity every year, while staying true to its roots and grubs. “We may dress up fancy in black and white, but we don’t put on phony airs,” Roma concludes. “We don’t need any glitzy expensive kind of downtown convention center. We don’t need any induction ceremony. We don’t need a bridge named after us. We’ve got everything we need right here.”

SkunkFest is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. For more information about this year’s festivities, visit or go out in the back yard just after dusk.

Greg Donley is a longtime Cleveland Heights resident.

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Volume 2, Issue 4, Posted 10:41 PM, 03.19.2009