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Kevin Dayhoff: Westminster’s annual Fallfest continuing a tradition begun after World War II

After being canceled last year due to the COVID pandemic, Westminster’s annual Fallfest returns Thursday for a four-day run. The 42nd edition of the popular celebration begins with a parade at 7 p.m. that starts on Pennsylvania Avenue and ends just below Westminster City Hall on Longwell Avenue.

Fallfest, known as “Carroll County’s largest community charity event,” continues through Sunday in the center of historic downtown Westminster, at the playground at 11 Longwell Ave., the city parking lot, and the Westminster Family Center.

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Fallfest will be held in the center of downtown Westminster, at the playground at 11 Longwell Ave., and the Westminster Family Center. 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.
Fallfest will be held in the center of downtown Westminster, at the playground at 11 Longwell Ave., and the Westminster Family Center. 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. (Kevin Dayhoff/Kevin Dayhoff)

The mission of Fallfest, according to the event website, is, “To highlight Westminster’s spirit of community and to provide benefits for non-profit organizations that serve ... Westminster and surrounding communities.”

This year Fallfest partners include, MCQE Pet Pantry, Carroll County Special Olympics Maryland, The Westminster Municipal Band, and Potomac Case Management Services, Inc. Sponsors are McDaniel College; internet provider Ting; S&K Roofing, Siding, and Windows; NWSB Bank; T-Mobile; Comcast Business, and Carroll Hospital.

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Many were disappointed when safety protocols for COVID-19 caused Fallfest to be canceled last year. This year, the festival will feature more than 80 vendors offering a variety of crafts and gifts along with information about local businesses on Saturday and Sunday. Learn more on the Fallfest “Vendors page.”

For many, Fallfest is one of the highlights of the year. It is always fun when the greater Carroll County family gets together to celebrate everything that is wonderful about our community. It is certainly one of the highlights of the year for me and I have written about the event on a number of occasions for more than 30 years.

Fallfest hours are 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information go the Fallfest “Rides and Entertainment” page.

Fallfest returns on Thursday with more than 80 vendors and a variety of crafts, gifts and food. The community celebration runs through Sunday.
Fallfest returns on Thursday with more than 80 vendors and a variety of crafts, gifts and food. The community celebration runs through Sunday. (Kevin Dayhoff/Kevin Dayhoff)

Like many communities, Westminster has its dreamers, its dream-keepers and its dream-slayers. The dreamers and the dream-keepers make a community 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.

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The Westminster Department of Recreation and Parks dream-keepers work 365 days of the year. They are out-of-the-box thinkers whose ideas grow and evolve to make Fallfest and other recreational programs successful. When you attend Fallfest, keep in mind the countless long meetings, paperwork and late nights that are required to make the festival a success.

The soul of a community is revealed in the way it promotes art, music, diversity and culture — and has fun. The integrity of a community is shown in the way it treats the disadvantaged. Westminster has a vibrant history of coming together in public-private 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, an event that is in a category all by itself. . It is a wonderful concoction of dreamers and civic-minded generosity, a celebration of community, the arts, culture and music. At the same time, it raises lots of money and then — it gives it away to nonprofit groups.

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.

Festival-goers visit Fallfest booths In 1983, when the celebration stretched along Westminster's Main Street for several blocks on both sides of the railroad tracks. Many years later, Fallfest moved to Longwell Avenue and the Westminster playground.
Festival-goers visit Fallfest booths In 1983, when the celebration stretched along Westminster's Main Street for several blocks on both sides of the railroad tracks. Many years later, Fallfest moved to Longwell Avenue and the Westminster playground. (Kevin Dayhoff/Kevin Dayhoff)

Although there are anecdotes about various fall celebrations throughout Westminster’s history, the current version of Fallfest and the annual parade draws 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 Aug. 29, 1947 article in the Democratic Advocate newspaper reported: “At the weekly luncheon meeting on Monday at the Charles Carroll Hotel [involving] 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 describes a parade on Thursday evening and downtown merchant sales on Sept. 25 and 26. “There will be a big parade on Thursday evening, at 9 o’clock, [to] which all Carroll County Fire Companies, with their Ladies Auxiliaries are invited, [along with] bands, civic and fraternal organizations, Boys and Girl Scouts, etc.

Westminster Fallfest is known as "Carroll County’s largest community charity event." The 42nd annual edition of the community celebration begins Thursday with a parade at 7 p.m.
Westminster Fallfest is known as "Carroll County’s largest community charity event." The 42nd annual edition of the community celebration begins Thursday with a parade at 7 p.m. (Kevin Dayhoff/Kevin Dayhoff)

“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. …”

These days the Recreation and Parks Department is fully committed to planting the seeds for and harvesting the fruits of this community gathering for the greater good.

When you attend this year’s festivities, be sure to thank all the volunteers and the folks from the Recreation and Parks Department. They are easy to spot. They’re the tired ones, with the big hearts and huge smiles.

The Fallfest food court in 2003. This year's food vendors include Asia Fusion Elite, Avalanche Shaved Ice & Snowballs, Bebo’s Mac Shack, Big Fat Daddy’s, Carroll Concessions, Convenience Catering, Gospel Spreading Church, Lionheart Cakes, Phelps Concessions, S & S Concessions, Sherri’s Crab Cakes, The Sprinkled Cow, and Vocelli Pizza.
The Fallfest food court in 2003. This year's food vendors include Asia Fusion Elite, Avalanche Shaved Ice & Snowballs, Bebo’s Mac Shack, Big Fat Daddy’s, Carroll Concessions, Convenience Catering, Gospel Spreading Church, Lionheart Cakes, Phelps Concessions, S & S Concessions, Sherri’s Crab Cakes, The Sprinkled Cow, and Vocelli Pizza. (Kevin Dayhoff/Kevin Dayhoff)

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

For more information and the schedule of events of this year’s Fallfest activities, be sure to go to the website: www.westminsterfallfest.com.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com.

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