62nd Annual Autumn Leaf Festival Kicks Off Friday

alf-ph[1]CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The U.S. Army kicks off the 62nd Annual Autumn Leaf Festival with a bang Friday night and also offers this year’s newest attraction.

(Photo courtesy of James Parkes.)

A Kick Off concert by the U.S. Army Field Band Volunteers, the national and international touring band, is featured at 7:00 p.m. at the Clarion Mall perking lot.

“The U.S. Army is also our new title sponsor for the entire ALF Festival,” said Chamber Executive Director Tracy Becker. “Everything is else is pretty much the same, but we’ve been tweaking events to see how we can make them better.”

The 10-day event continues to show an increase in interest, especially the October 2 Craft Day and the October 3 “Tournament of Leaves Parade.”

Becker said the first event actually takes place this coming Wednesday with a Sponsor’s Reception at the new location of Chamber offices at the corner of Main Street and Seventh Avenue.

“We have 84 people coming to the reception and that’s a record number,” said Becker.  “I think everyone just wants to see the new office.” 

The ornate first-floor office formerly housed the Ditz White Pillars and S&T Bank.

Thursday is also big for Becker’s small staff and many volunteers. Thursday night dress rehearsals are being held for Saturday night’s Miss and Mr. Junior Teen and Miss and Mr. Teen ALF Scholarship program.

“The scholarship program tickets are flying out of here, and we have 12 contestants in the program this year,” said Becker. “I look for our office to be completely busy this coming week after all of the other event information hits the media.”

Friday is also a busy day for the Chamber, concentrating on efforts to set up for the Friday concert and food concessionaires start to move into town.

army volunteers

Live entertainment at the concert starts at 6:00 p.m. with local country singer Coston Cross, followed by a special recognition of all veterans.

The ALF event that draws the largest number of people to Clarion is Craft Day and this year’s Friday, October 2, edition has all the earmarks of another success.

“We sold out crafter day spots in July, and that is one of the earliest times we’ve ever had for being that full,” said Becker.  “We also had a waiting list of about 60 names, and we had to shut that off. We have people calling and begging us, begging us to get spots, and we’ve tried to explain to people that we can’t; we don’t have any space.”

A total of 363 spots are available for crafters, stretching along Main Street from Second Avenue to Eighth Avenue.

“It is bigger than even parade day,” continued Becker.  “We start that show at 8 a.m. and it lasts until 5 p.m.  People will come here, and the thing that works out for this year is that Apple Fest Craft Show is the same weekend and people will be able to spend half a day here and then go up there (Franklin) and spend half a day.”

Parade day remains popular, and Main Street will be closed in the morning before the actual parade from noon until 2 p.m.  Becker said parade plans are going well, and the count of parade units is ahead of where the Chamber was last year at this time. Parade entries were over 100 as of Thursday.

“I did have a local band call me and say they really wanted to be in our parade on the third, but they have another hometown event later in the afternoon, so they wanted to be toward the front of the parade,” said Becker.  “I said we would work with them because they’ve been coming to our parade for many years.”

“One of the things nice for the parade this year is that Mercyhurst is playing Clarion in the Homecoming Game following the parade.  They are also bringing their band, and they wanted to march in the parade. We’re excited about that. With the exception of Shippensburg, not too many other bands travel with their football teams because it costs money to send the bands on buses.”

The Clarion University Band will also be marching in the parade, and the members will be wearing their new uniforms.

Main Street in front of the Courthouse will remain closed after the parade for various events, and Becker also expects the return of university alumni and notes that area high school alumni also use ALF for class reunions and events.

A complete schedule of events is available at ClarionPA.com.

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