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Fall in love with downtown Westminster

As Westminster celebrates its 250th anniversary, residents are preparing for a slightly less historical tradition, the annual Fallfest.

First held in 1978, the Westminster Fallfest has long been the one of the town's most prominent celebrations. Featuring carnival rides, live music, food and performances from local dancers, the event is designed as a fundraisers for several county nonprofits. This year, money raised at the event will support Special Olympics Maryland, Carroll County; Carroll Hospice; the Akiton Club, a Kiwanis-sponsored service club for adults with disabilities; and Good News Jail and Prison Ministry. Last year at Fallfest, organizers were able to raise approximately $7,500 for each nonprofit, from money raised by vendors, carnival rides and more.

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Abby Gruber, Fallfest chair, said the nonprofit support is an essential component to the community celebration.

"It's important to support the nonprofits that are the heart of our community," Gruber said. "They're the cornerstones of Westminster. You can go spend your money in many places, and all families are making decisions about where it's best to spend any discretionary funds that are left over at the end of a paycheck. At least with this decision, you know the money is staying here and being reinvested into the community."

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Every year, immediately after Fallfest concludes, the group puts out the call for local nonprofits to partner with the event. After submitting an application, approved groups meet with the board for an interview process to narrow it down to four.

"It's really assessed year-by-year," Gruber said. "We deliberate and figure out who we feel has met all or most of our qualifications."

Each nonprofit must provide eight volunteers for the each hour of the event. Gruber said she found that the charities often form bonds throughout the process.

"What's interesting is that the charities start to work together as a team; we've seen it every year," Gruber said. "They realize the more successful Fallfest is, the more they all get to take home."

The festival kicks off with a mile-long Fun Run at 6:45 p.m. and the annual Fallfest parade at 7 p.m. Thursday both beginning at Monroe Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Money raised by the Fun Run will support the Friends of Westminster City Recreation and Parks.

For the first year, Fallfest will feature a mechanical bull, provided by Beth Sylves and Jeff Seitz of Buckin' Wild. Sylves said organizers reached out to her after she brought the bull to a Labor Day party. They'll be offering bull rides for $5 for two rides, as well as hosting competitions throughout the day.

"Somebody mentioned having a mechanical bull, and for some reason, the idea just began to gain traction in the office," Gruber said.

Sylves said they've taken the mechanical bull to celebrations across the county.

"We've taken it to farms and fairs and festivals and people have always thought they were a lot of fun," Sylves said. "We're not in the amusement business yet; we've just had a lot of fun with it."

In addition, the event will feature performances by Midnite Run, Standard Delivery Combo, Hold the Wheel and Three Sheets and the Wind. In addition, people will have the opportunity to participate in a karaoke contest at 1 p.m. Saturday.

On Saturday and Sunday, dance fans will have the opportunity to take in a number of local performing arts groups, including Tir Na Nog Irish dance, Sindyanna belly dance, Footnotes cloggers and Native American hoop dance.

Another aspect of the festival includes the annual Midnight Madness on Main Street, where Main Street is closed to motor vehicles and businesses — including shops and restaurants —remain open from 6 p.m. until midnight. Missie Wilcox, marketing consultant with the city, said Fallfest is a celebration that is unique to Westminster.

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"It truly is an event for all ages. Parents can head to Midnight Madness, and you can literally drop children off at Fallfest," Wilcox said. "It's a very interesting festival that truly encapsulates all of downtown Westminster."

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

If You Go

What: Fallfest

When: 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

Where: 10 Longwell Ave., Westminster

For more information: Visit http://www.westminsterfallfest.com or call 410-848-9000.

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