CLARION — After a scaled back event last year, Clarion’s Autumn Leaf Festival will return next weekend with nine days packed with the favorite events people have come to love over the past 68 years.
Tracy Becker, director of the Clarion Chamber of Business and Industry, which organizes the annual event, said the full festival is back, and none too soon.
“Our phones have been ringing off the hooks,” she said of folks eager to see the return of Farmers & Crafters Day, the Tournament of Leaves Parade and everything else from Saturday, October 2, through Sunday, Oct. 10.
Becker noted, however, that one event is not on the schedule this year, the annual scholarship pageant, which is usually held at Clarion Area High School leading into the festival’s start. She said that when events had to be coordinated, it was uncertain what would be allowed at the schools this year.
Festival merchandise arrived at the chamber office at the end of this past week, Becker said, and final preparations were being made to get everything ready for next weekend.
Spanning two weekends, the 68th Annual Allegheny Toyota Autumn Leaf Festival kicks off next Saturday, Oct. 2, with the United Way of Clarion County’s 5K and 10K race, which gets underway at Clarion University Memorial Stadium at 9 a.m.
Other events that day include the Pennsylvania State Old Time Fiddlers Contest at the First United Methodist Church at 11 a.m., the Kids Carnival and the Touch-A-Truck event at the Clarion Mall from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., a corn hole tournament downtown starting at 5 p.m., and a concert by the classic hits band “UpTown” from 7 to 10 p.m. downtown.
Festivities continue on Sunday, Oct. 3, with the Junior Olympics at the university stadium from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. and the big Autorama Cruise-In and Motorcycle Show from noon to 4 p.m. downtown.
On Monday, Oct. 4, the Clarion University Cultural Night series begins with entertainment by Simple Gifts in front of the courthouse at 7 p.m.
The entertainment will feature Barynya: Russian Dancers at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 5, also in front of the courthouse. Tuesday’s schedule also features the Kiddies Parade along Main Street at 6 p.m., and the annual Foodstock food pantry collection from noon to 2 p.m. at Clarion Ford.
On Wednesday, Oct. 6, the Cultural Night performance at 7 p.m. highlights the Rev. Robert Jones Sr. with songs and stories, followed by karaoke from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m.
The band “Djangophonique” will perform at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7, in front of the courthouse to close out the Cultural Nights.
Friday, Oct. 8, marks the return of the festival’s signature Farmers & Crafters Day, featuring hundreds of vendors lined for blocks along Main Street in Clarion from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The evening’s entertainment will feature the classic rock band, “Legends,” in downtown Clarion from 7:30 to 10 p.m.
The crowds will continue into Saturday, Oct. 9, as the Tournament of Leaves parade steps off at noon, winding its way through town to Clarion University’s stadium, where the Eagles will take on IUP for the homecoming football game at 2 p.m.
Festival events on Saturday will also include the Wild World of Animals show at 4 p.m., and performance by oldies band “American Pie” at 5:30 p.m., both in front of the courthouse.
The festivities wrap up on Sunday, Oct. 10, with the Antique Tractor Show along Main Street from noon to 5 p.m., featuring performances by the Route 8 Band.