Archive for Thursday, October 14, 2004

Maple Leaf Festival is rite of fall passage

October 14, 2004

What else can it be but Maple Leaf Festival time? We're staring down the barrels of the third full weekend in October once again.

That always means there's 20,000 of Baldwin City's closest friends coming into town for the annual weekend of fall celebration. It's always a great time, but it's always a lot of work.

Last week, the first sign of the festival arrived when city workers hung the Maple Leaf Festival banner at Eighth and High streets. That has become traditionally the kick off for Maple Leaf -- and all of that work that goes with it. We have our share here with putting out the annual Maple Leaf Festival special section, which is included in this week's Signal.

That special section is always my second sign of the impending big weekend. It always wears me out, but then it's time to watch the fun as downtown Baldwin makes its annual transformation to handle the thousands of people that flock to town.

Next, the orange "temporary no parking" signs go up along High Street. Talk about adding a touch of color. Then, usually, it's the country music tent going up across the street between the post office and the lumberyard.

I honestly can't say if the tent beat the additional trash cans being placed this year. I noticed them both at the same time. Then the big tent over at Baker goes up. Mixed in with those items are the traditions of the road barricades being placed along the streets and the one-way traffic signs going up on various poles.

There is a break from tradition this year, though. We always keep an eye out for the first carnival truck carrying a ride. In past years, the carnival has been a close neighbor of the Signal with its set-up on Seventh Street between our buildings and the library. But this year, the carnival has been moved. It will be along High Street between Eighth and Ninth streets and will also use the empty lot where the old lumberyard storage building was located.

We'd known about that change, of course, but I wasn't sure I would believe it until I saw it. Sure enough, Wednesday morning the first carnival truck was parked there. I'm anxious to see how that change will work out. I think it will be much better because the carnival was always squeezed into not much space.

From there with the transformation, it's always a hodge-podge of what happens next. It depends a lot on who's in charge of the various food booths and other items in a given year.

Action with the above items was heavy Tuesday morning, but Wednesday morning the carnival truck was the only new sign. I'm sure that changed going into the evening Wednesday, will really pick up today and by Friday, most everything will be in place.

Baldwin City will be ready, as always, for all the guests streaming in Saturday morning. But, will the Maple trees be offering the beautiful colors that are the origin of the 47th annual event?

Not quite, seems to be the common and safe answer.

Make no mistake, the leaves are turning. But, it doesn't look like they'll be in full color by the weekend, especially the deep reds that really make a difference.

It's become an annual rite of passage for me to find examples of our famed Maples for pictures in the issue ahead of the festival. I did that Saturday and found slim pickings. The old standbys were in place -- Counts Farm, Ralph Rulen's place and a few others. Those are always early, but don't include the reds. I learned that this year.

What I did find was plenty of examples of all the Maples in the stage of what I call "graying temples." The change is noticeable, but just isn't quite there yet.

But, the show will go on Saturday and Sunday, you can bet on that. By then, the trees will be further along, hopefully the weather will be beautiful and the steady streams of visitors will be enjoying the parade, craft and food booths that the festival is known so well for.

People may or may not notice the leaves and, you can rest assured, they won't be back in a few weeks to help rake them. By then, Baldwin will have transformed back to normal and the smell of burning leaves will have taken over once again. It's fall, folks, and here we go again. Enjoy.

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