CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Autumn Leaf Festival organizers are preparing up for the 66th Annual event that runs from September 28 to October 6.
More than 500,000 people attend the internationally award-winning annual event.
The theme for this year’s festival, sponsored by the Allegheny Toyota, is “An American Autumn.”
Tracy Becker, the Executive Director of the Clarion Chamber of Business and Industry, says ALF organizers and volunteers have been busy with preparations for the extremely popular event.
“I think we’re in a good position,” Becker told CookForest.com.
“I think with the team I have in the office here, as far as my staff, with Tammy LaCross, my Event Coordinator, Jenna Beichner, my Administrative Assistant, and I’ve got Tatum Maleski, who is an intern from the university in Human Resource Management, I’ve got a good team here.”
According to Becker, the board of directors has also been central to the planning of this year’s festival.
“Anything that’s been going on, I’ve been running things by them. It truly is a collaboration.”
Becker noted that they utilize action item lists for each event to plan everything that needs to be done and prepared prior to the events, checking daily to make sure they’re making progress on the necessary timeline to have everything completed in time for the festival. They also have “day of” action item lists for each of the events for making sure all the necessary last-minute preparations are completed.
“Technically, for us, our first event is next Wednesday, with all of our sponsors, we do a reception here for them.”
Then, just one week from today, on Friday, September 27, the food vendors will begin to arrive and move into place in downtown Clarion.
“I have to sit down with my concession chair again this week just to make sure in our mind we’ve gotten everything.”
While the organizers are currently feeling good about the upcoming festival, Becker noted the preparations for a festival of this scope don’t occur without a few hitches along the way.
“There have been, as I call them, speed bumps. As in anything, no matter what you do, we’ve had speed bumps, but I’m hoping they’re all happening now and not the week of the festival. It’s about having open conversations and not getting excited. It’s just tackling that situation at that particular point.”
According to Becker, the Chamber oversees fifteen to sixteen events each year, and also handles the marketing and merchandising.
“My big thing is trying to stay on top of it as much as we can, and just keeping open communication.”
While it does call for some long hours for the staff, as well as some very busy days, the staff members work with a sense of camaraderie, which helps keep them going, even through the busiest of times.
“We laugh, we order lunch in and sit around the table and just talk about things, like what we really need to focus on at the moment.”
Becker noted that for her, one of the things she likes best about this year’s festival is the theme.
“Just being ‘An American Autumn’…I just can’t even imagine being anywhere else for fall, when you’ve got Cook Forest here, and the trees, and the river, and different things like that, and you see the tree leaves start turning, and you start getting a little chill in the air.”
This year’s festival also has a new event.
On the evening of Friday, October 4, following the Farmers & Crafter’s Day, the FUN Bank Classic Rock Concert featuring Legends will begin at 7:30 p.m. in front of the courthouse.
“We’ve never done anything on that Friday night because we also know that sometimes, it could be a Friday night football game,” Becker noted.
“But whenever it was announced that Clarion, Clarion-Limestone, and North Clarion were going to merge the football teams, I knew that meant one less game locally. Then I was looking at the schedule and thought ‘what if we could do something Friday after Farmers & Crafters?'”
The opportunity for some added entertainment for that Friday night then presented itself when Becker was speaking to David Schirmer, the lead guitarist and booking agent for Legends, a popular area band that plays classic rock from the 60s forward.
“He said ‘if you ever have a time that you need entertainment, let us know,’ and anybody that knows the group Legends, well, they’re phenomenal. They really are a great group. So I kept thinking about it and thinking about it, and finally called Dave back and asked their price. Then I went back and looked at my budget and things and called them back and said ‘we want you.'”
Along with the new concert, other major featured events include the carnival rides and amusements, food vendors, the Miss Junior Teen and Miss Teen ALF, the Autorama Cruise-in, the Tournament of Leaves parade, antique tractor show, Cultural Nights, and the popular Farmer’s and Crafter’s Show.
The full schedule is available on the Clarion Chamber of Business & Industry website.