The 22nd annual Sykesville Fall Festival will open Saturday with folk music, arts and crafts and touches of town history.
Organizers have decided not to bring back last year's celebrity impersonators or carnival acts.
Loriann Pfefferkorn, a Main Street business owner and festival promoter this year, is avoiding the "too tacky" and opting for a simplified and decidedly Sykesville flavor.
"It is a festival to promote us, to give us exposure," Ms. Pfefferkorn said.
Ms. Pfefferkorn said she remembers her embarrassment when last year's festival opened at 9 a.m. with an Elvis impersonator singing "My Sweet Little Suzy Love Machine" and continued on shrill notes for nine hours. She vowed there would not be a repeat performance and volunteered to steer this year's festival.
"We need to play up what we are, a town with a river, a railroad and antiquities," she said. "We don't want a festival with a carnival atmosphere."
Craig Taylor, president of Sykesville Business Association, which sponsors the festival, said the day will be "a lot lower key than last year." He gave Ms. Pfefferkorn high marks for her efforts. With good weather, he expects a crowd of 4,000.
Since May, Ms. Pfefferkorn has recruited about 40 vendors, most of whom have local ties. All five town restaurants will have booths.
Visitors can taste crab cakes, German sausage and sauerkraut, pit beef and ham, and top off their meals with homemade ice cream or apple desserts created by volunteers from St. Paul United Methodist Church.
The festival still will have music, but the more subtle sounds of soft guitar and light folk tunes.
Children can make a scarecrow, take pony rides and pet a farm animal or two, compliments of Ms. Pfefferkorn's West Friendship farm.
Just for the day, she will switch from her job as a florist at Meadowsweet Emporium to running the petting zoo.
She is corralling a few young animals in a pen on Main Street, which will be closed to traffic for the day.
Pedestrians can meander among booths set up at intervals on either side of the street and stop in the shops, all open extended hours Saturday.
"I hope they walk the entire street and see where everything is here," Ms. Pfefferkorn said.
At 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., Civil War re-enactors will stage the battle of the bridge along the Patapsco River.
"I think the South wins," Ms. Pfefferkorn said.
Any stumbling blocks encountered in the planning were only minor challenges to Ms. Pfefferkorn.
"I am an optimist and why should I let things stop me?" she said.
When she took the promoter job, she promised the town that the event would break even.
Before the first sale, she already has accumulated a $1,200 profit. All the profits will go to town improvement projects.
"We want to put dollars to work for the town," she said.
She has ideas to beautify Main Street with plants, gaslights and maybe historical plaques. She also wants to plant a rock garden at the Town House.
The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. along Main Street. Admission is free. Information: 795-0556.