Revamped Autumn Days on the schedule this weekend

The Valley Banner

ELKTON — After nearly disappearing as its host organization dismantled, the revived fall arts and crafts festival is back in Elkton this weekend for the 31st consecutive year.

The new organizers have made major changes, including moving Autumn Days into the main shopping area and asking businesses for more help to promote Elkton as a year-round destination.

“There was a big push with the new group to try to link the festival to the town little better than having it as its own standalone event,” Joshua Gooden, marketing coordinator for the latest iteration of the Elkton Progressive Improvement Committee, said Monday. “We’ve tried to bring in businesses through sponsorships, linking downtown businesses to the festival.

“We want to bring everybody in to see what the town has to offer that’s not necessarily just on the third weekend in October.”

The free arts and crafts festival is set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

While arts and crafts sales won’t begin until Saturday, the festival really is kicking off Friday night. Three bands will perform from 6 to 9 p.m. as the vendors set up, providing music in front of Town Hall at 173 W. Spotswood Ave.

Music — plenty of bluegrass, country and Christian acts with some folk and rock mixed in and a dash of gospel on Sunday — will be available throughout the festival.

The Friday night shows, Gooden said, grew out of the “outpouring of musicians interested in performing.” Rather than turn acts away that wanted to play, they expanded the music beyond the traditional festival dates.

The event is moving to West Spotswood Street from the area around Elkton Elementary School, a change that created more room for vendors. Gooden said 100 vendor spaces had been sold, though some artisans took two spots.

“The biggest thing is we’ve expanded the area,” he said. “Where before we were located on more narrow street, now we’re on the widest street in Elkton.”

The move was designed to allow attendees to move more freely throughout the festival space. They’ll also be able to walk around the artisans’ booths.

Gooden said food vendors have been put into a designated area, with 22 local civic groups, churches and food trucks providing a broad array of choices. A kids’ zone has been created, too, with arts and crafts for children and schools selling handmade items as a fundraiser.

Parking for Autumn Days will be available along Terrace Avenue; along B, Warren and Rockingham streets; and at Elkton United Methodist Church, he said. Signs will guide visitors to parking areas, and efforts are underway to recruit some volunteers to direct traffic.

Festival officials have brought in new artisans this year, and they hope to attract new customers, too.

“We’ve really tried to push social media as another aspect of marketing this festival,” said Gooden, a member of Elkton Town Council. “We made a big push with Virginia Tourism Corp., marketing through their website. “We’re trying to put the festival out to more than just the people that read the newspaper.”

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