Autumn Days returns bigger than ever

The Valley Banner

ELKTON — It appeared as though Elkton’s annual Autumn Days Festival might die after a 30-year run when the original Elkton Progressive Improvement Committee disbanded late last year.

EPIC, after all, founded and organized the event.

But nine months later, one of the members of the new EPIC thinks this year’s Autumn Days will be the biggest ever.

“It’s huge. We have 92 or 93 spots filled,” said Bob Swartz, chairman of the event’s crafter committee. “It’s about one-third bigger than what we’ve ever had.

“And we have a few new faces that are going to turn some heads.”

Swartz, who creates items out of copper and sells them at The Copper Patina on West Spotswood Avenue and at arts and craft shows, has tapped into his peer network to boost vendor participation. More than 20 new artisans are expected to be on hand for the two-day festival that begins Oct. 21.

Though the bulk of the artists are from Virginia, he said some are coming from as far away as North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The new faces aren’t limited to crafters, though.

“The food area has exploded,” Swartz said. “We have 31 spaces for food, everything you could imagine.”

Regional vendors, local civic and church groups, and even a couple of food trucks will be on hand. Despite the high number, he said no food type is duplicated.

And the number is expected to continue growing. Though the deadline to sign up for the event was Aug. 1, Swartz said he’s continued to accept vendors selling 100 percent handmade products and might do so until the day of the show.

Plenty Of Help
Different crafters and food providers aren’t the only new facets of this year’s festival. It’ll also be in a different part of town.

In April, Town Council approved a request to move the festival from the area around Elkton Elementary School to part of West Spotswood Street. But as vendor registration grew, Swartz said he got permission to expand to all of West Spotswood, which connects West Spotswood Trail with North Stuart Avenue.

The vendor booths will be 3 feet off the sidewalks, he said, and there will be 4 feet between each one so people can walk all the way around the space.

The group has encountered hitches in the planning process, but Swartz said every issue has been resolved.

“The town has worked incredibly with me,” he said. “They’ve moved electric, dropped electric where we need it, provided water supply. They’ve worked with us like I never thought I’d see.”

Members of the previous EPIC group also have pitched in, Swartz said, providing information and helping the new group get established.

“It’s been a really good experience,” he said.

Vendors will be encouraged to check in and set up the night before the show. Swartz said live acoustic music will be played Friday evening, with a vendor selling hamburgers and hot dogs for those involved in preparing their space.

Despite its near-death experience, Swartz said Autumn Days is shaping up to be improved in part due to a major marketing push via social media and the new EPIC website,, and he’s not surprised.

“I think once the initial shock left the town,” he said, “everything died down and people realized what we were doing with this festival is making it bigger and better, and everybody started coming.”

Though the 31st Autumn Days Festival remains on the horizon, Swartz has visions of it growing considerably next year.

Some artisans had set their schedules before it was known that the event would continue, and he said he expects dozens to add Elkton to next year’s show circuit and likely will set up along Warren Street. A new goal will be to have three days of activities and draw more people from Massanutten Resort into town.

“Next year, I anticipate another 30 to 40 new faces in here again,” he said. “At that point, this town’s going to explode, because they never will have seen the talent that they will see.”

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