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Westminster's Fallfest continues a proud tradition [Commentary]

Westminster’s annual Fallfest celebration begins Thursday with a parade at 7 p.m. that starts on Pennsylvania Avenue and ends just below Westminster City Hall on Longwell Avenue.

Fallfest, which boasts on its website, westminsterfallfest.com, to be “Carroll County’s largest community charity event,” then continues four days through Sunday in the center of downtown Westminster at the playground and the Westminster Family Center.

For many it is one of the highlights of the year -- a time when the greater Carroll County family gets together to celebrate everything that is wonderful about our community.

Friday evening, Sept. 27, highlights the annual Midnight Madness celebration of shopping and eating-out on Main Street in downtown Westminster.

Fallfest hours for Friday are 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday from 12 noon to 6 p.m.

Like many communities, Westminster has its dreamers, its dream-keepers and its dream-slayers. The dreamers and the dream-keepers are the stuff that makes a community a home; a great place to live, do business and raise a family. The dream-keepers are citizens - not spectators. The dream-keepers say, “let’s do it” and then roll up their sleeves and go to work.

The soul of a community is evident in how well it promotes art, music, diversity and culture - and has fun. The integrity of a community is how well it treats the disadvantaged. Westminster has a vibrant history of coming together in private–public partnerships to help make the community a better place.

We also have a history of having a good time. We have parades, carnivals, festivals, celebrations, and we have Fallfest. Fallfest is in a category all to itself. Fallfest is a wonderful concoction of dreamers and civic-minded generosity; a celebration of community, the arts, culture and music. All the while it raises lots of money and then – it gives it away.

The roots of Fallfest go back to 1978 when a group of dreamers got together to promote the downtown shopping district and celebrate the Westminster revitalization efforts of the mid-1970s.

Although there are anecdotal stories of various community fall celebrations throughout Westminster’s history; our current version of “Fallfest,” the annual parade and Midnight Madness specifically draw upon a tradition that started many years ago when Westminster came together in September for an event sponsored by the Retail Merchants Association called “Westminster Days.”

An August 29th, 1947 article in the old, out-of-print Democratic Advocate newspaper reported, “At the weekly luncheon meeting on Monday at the Charles Carroll Hotel the Retail Merchants Association of this city, plans were completed for the Westminster Days which will be held on Sept. 25 and 26. President John R. Byers presided.”

The article then described a big parade on Thursday evening and two days of downtown merchant sales on September 25th and 26th, 1947.

“There will be a big parade on Thursday evening, at 9 o'clock, which all Carroll County Fire Companies, with their Ladies Auxiliaries are invited, bands, civic and fraternal organizations, Boys and Girls Scouts, etc.

“There will be first and second prizes for largest groups in line, best appearance, longest distance, best appearance bands and decorated floats. Children are invited to participate with decorated bicycles, kiddie cars, scooters and etc.

“The climax…will be on Friday evening … when gifts donated by the merchants will be awarded in the State Armory, Longwell Ave. It is planned that the stores will have their displays in their windows until Friday when they will be taken to the Armory.”

It seems that the Fallfest board is in the business of planting the seeds and harvesting the fruits from gathering our community together for a greater good.

When you attend this year’s festivities, be sure to thank all the volunteers and the Fallfest dream-keepers’ board.  They are easy to spot. They’re the tired ones, with the big hearts and huge smiles.

I’ll look forward to seeing you there. I’ll be the one sticking close to the food booths because another part of the fun of Fallfest is eating.

When he is not eating at Fallfest, Kevin Dayhoff may be reached at kevindayhoff@gmail.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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