Organizers Prepare for Downsized Autumn Leaf Festival

| September 19, 2020

CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – Autumn Leaf Festival organizers are preparing for the 67th Annual event that runs from Thursday, October 1, to Saturday, October 3.

While the traditional downtown festival is known to draw as many as 500,000 people to our area each year, this year’s downsized festival will have an entirely different appearance.

Executive Director of the Clarion Chamber of Business and Industry Tracy Becker (pictured above) told exploreClarion.com that planning for this year’s festival has been challenging.

“Our hope was, because again in June, the numbers (COVID-19) started going down, that they were going to continue to go down.”

According to Becker, the Chamber had hopes of not only holding the Autumn Leaf Festival downtown but also of being able to hold some other events that were postponed earlier in the year, such as the Cheers to Beers event. However, that event remains on hold, as the current mitigation orders still make it impossible.

Becker said they were initially looking at the full nine-day event, then began looking into how it could be downsized to fit the current circumstances, including the limits on indoor gatherings.

“Some activities just could not take place. We can’t have the scholarship program with just 25 people. We can’t do a fiddler’s competition with just 25 people. At that point, we knew some of those activities were going away.”

While many people may miss the traditional carnival rides, Tracy received word from the carnival company in April that they would not be traveling at all this year.

More changes came when Clarion University made the announcement that they would be holding all classes online this semester and would not be having any alumni activities or fall sports.

“At that point, we knew anything we had happening at the university, those events would have to go away.”

Then with the ongoing orders for no outdoor gatherings of more than 250 people, the popular Farmers and Crafters Day was also placed on the chopping block. Becker said they did consider a scaled-down version, open only to local crafters, with booths spaced at least ten feet apart and staggered diagonally on either side of Main Street, but even that possibility was eliminated when the Clarion Borough council turned down the event request.

“I understand why the borough said ‘no,’ but it’s still disheartening because when we’re looking at the events, we want to do, it’s for the community.”

Many area businesses have been struggling between the shutdowns, the ongoing restrictions, and the fact that many people are also struggling and just not spending as much money.

“There are a lot of businesses that rely on Autumn Leaf Festival to get them through the winter months,” Becker said.

“Not one entity can say COVID didn’t impact them. No matter who you are, you’ve been impacted in some way.”

According to Becker, they hoped the Autumn Leaf Festival could offer some light and levity during a difficult time.

“We looked at it as an opportunity where we can still keep a tradition like Autumn Leaf Festival continuing, even if it’s just for an afternoon or for an evening where you don’t have to think about COVID.”

When the borough council turned down the event request, she said she was tempted to give up, but not ready to do so.

“I thought to myself, if I give up, I feel like I’ve failed our businesses.”

She then began talking to the event chair and Clarion Mall General Manager Denny Hill about the possibility of moving more events to the are of the mall since they already had permission to have some events there. Within a couple of days, they had a new plan laid out and approved by the mall owner and began the hard work of making those plans a reality.

While the events planned by the Chamber will take place primarily in the area of the mall, there will be some special additions downtown as well, Becker noted.

The Destination Clarion Downtown committee recently had a meeting to discuss possibilities, and after hearing from a borough council member that businesses could put things like vendors on their own private property, more plans began taking shape.

“Jim Crooks is leading the charge on doing ‘mALF,’ which is a mini Autumn Leaf Festival.”

Becker said she provided Crooks with a list of the vendors that normally set up downtown for the festival, and he began reaching out to both local business owners that might be interested in hosting, as well as vendors that might be interested in coming to town. She also said the committee is working on some possible activities at local businesses.

“It’s not being disrespectful to the borough at all. We understand – but we’re trying to save our businesses,” Becker said.

Along with the activities planned at the mall and the possibility of other activities and vendors downtown, the online craft show is still moving forward, as well.

According to Becker, when they had to cancel the in-person downtown craft show, they reached out to the vendors who had registered to see if any of them would be interested in an online craft show, an idea she got from the State College Art Show.

“We’re still working on that,” she noted.

The plan is to have the vendors who are participating in the event to create a one- to two-minute video showcasing the items they have for sale. The videos will then be compiled into longer videos with several vendors each, which can be viewed on the Chamber’s website and Facebook page starting at 8:00 a.m. on October 2.

“The idea is, if you see something you’re interested in, you get in touch with the crafter via whatever contact information they provide.”

There will also be a limited number of the traditional Autumn Leaf Festival glasses available at five local businesses: Fulmer House Books and Collectibles, DE Sports, Farmer’s National Bank, Dan Smith’s Candies and Gifts, and Clarion Federal Credit Union.

There will also be glasses available as prizes for games at some other local businesses, which will be announced at a later date.

“It’s just a way for businesses to show appreciation for the consumers. Everyone has been really creative.”

The Chamber will also have Autumn Leaf Festival shirts available, though quantities are limited this year. Becker said they have 125 t-shirts and 80 sweatshirts and are also offering new commemorative 3.5-inch buttons. The buttons are also tied into the events at the mall. During a break in the live music on the final day of the event, nine numbers will be chosen corresponding to buttons. The people with the first eight number pulled will win $67.00, in honor of the 67th Autumn Leaf Festival, and the ninth person will win $670.00.

The idea for wrapping up the festival with fireworks actually came from this year’s “I Love Clarion” celebration, which was held at the Clarion Mall, as well.

“We were trying to think of when we look at what we’re doing in the day and a half of activities, we wanted to finish off with something big. We thought everybody really enjoyed the fireworks down at the mall this year, so why not that?”

According to Becker, raising money for the fireworks is off to a good start. She reported that Structural Modular, Inc. decided that the $2,100.00 they would have put toward sponsorship of one of the events that was canceled this year would be donated to the fund for fireworks instead.

That, along with some other donations, has them about halfway to the $5,000.00 they need for the show. While Tracy has been contacting area businesses seeking sponsorship for the event, she noted that individuals who wish to donate are also more than welcome to do so, and any amount donated is appreciated.

Despite all of the difficulties, Becker stressed that the Chamber is working hard to create an event for the community.

“I know that Autumn Leaf Festival is going to be different this year. It’s not that we didn’t want to have the regular events, but that we know there are guidelines in place, and we couldn’t. We know that things have changed.”

“We just want to give people a little bit of time to relax and not think about COVID.”

Schedule of Events

Thursday, October 1

Sidewalk Sales in Downtown Clarion: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Friday, October 2

Sidewalk Sales in Downtown Clarion: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Food Vendors at the Clarion Mall: 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Corn Hole Tournament at the Clarion Mall: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sherwin Williams Karaoke Night at the Clarion Mall: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, October 3

Sidewalk Sales (Downtown Clarion): 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Advanced Disposal Touch-a-Truck at the Clarion Mall: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Seven Mountains Media Kids Carnival at the Clarion Mall: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Food Vendors at the Clarion Mall: 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Car Show sponsored by First Energy at the Clarion Mall: Noon to 5:00: p.m.
Live Concert at the Clarion Mall: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
First United National Bank “Oldies Concert” at the Clarion Mall: 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. featuring “American Pie”
**Fireworks at the Clarion Mall – (tentative): 8:30 p.m.**

Food Vendors at the Mall include Red River Roadhouse, The Meadows Original Frozen Custard, and Fowlers Taffy, Candy/Caramel Apples, Lemonade & Cotton Candy.

Knights of Columbus Council #7549 will also be selling their Hot/Sweet Sausage at Clarion Ford Chrysler Dodge JEEP Ram on September 26 and September 27 and again on October 2, 3, and 4. You can also purchase your Regular or Hot Sausage at Mechanistic Brewing on Friday, October 2.

Clarion County ABATE announced on Wednesday that their annual ALF Motorcycle Show will be held on Saturday, September 26, from 10:00 a.m. to Noon in the Clarion American Legion parking lot (next to The Haskell House).

Mechanistic Brewing is also working on bringing in a couple of local craft vendors and entertainment on Friday, October 2, and will be capping off the day with ALF trivia.

Clarion River Brewing Company will once again have their “Beer Garden” in place for October 2 and October 3.

RELATED:

Plan for Downsized Autumn Leaf Festival Released

Clarion Borough Council Says No to Downsized Autumn Leaf Festival

Autumn Leaf Festival Plans Move Forward With Fewer Events, Live Streaming


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