Record crowd flocks in for 44th Maple Leaf Festival
Dee and Gerald Grubb sat on a set of bleachers on Eighth Street Saturday, resting only a few minutes before moving on to the next set of craft booths.
"This is just really a good crafts show," Dee Grubb said of the Maple Leaf Festival. "There's so much variety."
The couple said they had made the trip from Silver Lake to watch the parade and visit at least some of the 200 craft booths at the festival.
This year marked the fourth year the Grubbs had visited Baldwin City for the festival.
"I think this is the biggest crowd we've ever seen," Gerald Grubb said. "And I think it's also the prettiest day we've ever been here, too."
The two days of almost perfect fall weather helped bring thousands of people to the weekend festival, Ron Nelson, festival announcer, said.
"Since the festival really started growing, we talked about what would happen if we had a good weather prediction for both Saturday and Sunday," Nelson said. "This year we just had ideal conditions and we saw what happened."
He said people from all over Kansas, and as far away as Texas, California and Washington, came to enjoy the weekend's festivities.
Festival publicity chair Star Novak said there was an estimated 30,000 people on Saturday alone.
"I firmly believe it was a record setting year for attendance," Novak said. "People wanted to get out this weekend and do something fun and relaxing, to return to simpler times."
Festival goers had opportunities to visit craft booths that sold a variety of items including art, jewelry, flowers, clothes and furniture.
"There were some booths that sold out and didn't return on Sunday," Novak said.
Visitors were also able to watch the melodrama or the "Ballad of Black Jack," enjoy the carnival rides, ride the Terror Tracks 2001 at Midland Railway, pet a kangaroo or llama at the exotic petting zoo or just sit and listen to country music.
And, of course, there was the grand parade Saturday morning.
Complete with the Grand Marshals, the firefighters, and floats, bands, cars and horses, the parade lasted just over an hour.
"Overall, the parade flowed really well," Nelson said. "It seemed like everybody in it was enjoying it."
Mackey King was attending the Maple Leaf Festival Saturday with her husband, Ralph, for the 12th year.
King said they liked to make the trip from Gardner to see the crafts. But she said this year, the trees were worth the trip.
"This year the leaves are just beautiful," she said. "They are so colorful."
Nelson said there were relatively few problems with the large number of people in attendance.
"People just seemed so pleasant, even with the large number of people we had," he said. "And I was pleased with the honesty of the people at the Maple Leaf Festival."
He said a number of lost items were turned in including wallets, cell phones, keys and jewelry.
"We were able to get a lot of things back to their owners," he said.
Overall, Novak said the festival was a success.
"It was fantastic," she said. "Everybody's great expectations of the festival were exceeded."