Fall Festival brings festive season to downtown Big Rapids

PUMPKIN ROLL: The popular event typically draws between 70 and 80 participants each year. While this season was not a good one for growing pie pumpkins, Salinas is confident the festival will be able to provide more-than-adequate rolling pumpkins. (Pioneer file photo)

PUMPKIN ROLL: The popular event typically draws between 70 and 80 participants each year. While this season was not a good one for growing pie pumpkins, Salinas is confident the festival will be able to provide more-than-adequate rolling pumpkins. (Pioneer file photo)

BIG RAPIDS – From parading in their Halloween finery to taste testing multiple chili recipes, this year’s Fall Festival hopes to once again entice families downtown for a few hours of fun.

“It’s really cool to see all the people coming downtown to spend time with their families,” said Darcy Salinas, executive director of the Big Rapids Downtown Business Association. “A lot of times, you’ll see the whole family dressed up. And I think it’s always fun for parents to see their children having a good time too in a safe environment.”

This is the sixth year for the Fall Festival, which invites area families to celebrate the season in a family-friendly atmosphere. The festival will feature its annual Scarecrow Contest, Chili Cook-Off and Children and Pet’s Costume Parade, among many other activities.

“It’s definitely become a tradition for some families in the area,” Salinas said. “The kids love it every year. It gives them another chance to wear their Halloween costumes.”

Kicking off the festival this year will be the Scarecrow Contest. Organizers are encouraging local businesses, not just those located downtown, and individuals to enter a scarecrow of their own design.

“We already have about seven people signed up, which is pretty good for this far out from the contest,” Salinas said. “The contest has really grown since we first held it. A couple of years ago, we only had two or three people sign up at a time.”

Judging will take place at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 22. Past scarecrow themes have ranged in subject matter from Duck Dynasty to a Native American motif. This year, the public will have a say in which scarecrow wins by liking the picture of the scarecrow they want to win on the DBA’s Facebook page. The scarecrow with the most likes wins.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FUN: Games for the little ones, trunk or treat and more will be available to entertain local families and their children at this year's Fall Festival. (Pioneer file photo)

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FUN: Games for the little ones, trunk or treat and more will be available to entertain local families and their children at this year’s Fall Festival. (Pioneer file photo)

The scarecrows will remain displayed in downtown Big Rapids until the end of October.

“We’re encouraging businesses to use the scarecrows as a marketing gimmick by using them as a promotional tool,” Salinas said.

The popular Chili Cook-Off will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 24, in the parking lot of City Hall. Ten local businesses are signed up to compete, including last year’s winners, Ferris State University Catering and Szot’s Bar and Grill.

Community members are invited to attend and help judge by voting for their favorite chili. Participants receive two tickets to vote on their pick for best restaurant and best catering chili recipe. While the event is free, donations are appreciated.

The final day of the festival begins at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25, in downtown Big Rapids. Michigan Avenue from City Hall to Carmike Big Rapids 4 Cinema will be blocked off for the parade. Following the parade, South Michigan Avenue will open.

Family-friendly activities on Saturday include a children and pet costume contest, kid’s games, inflatables provided by Cran-Hill Ranch and trunk or treating. Salinas said while the festival does celebrate Halloween, it includes other options to include area residents who do not celebrate the holiday.

“There are some church denominations in the area who do not celebrate Halloween,” Salinas said. “That’s why we call it the Fall Festival. We include more activities than just dressing up for Halloween. We also are celebrating the fall harvest and this gives kids who don’t celebrate Halloween a chance to celebrate fall.”

This year, there will be a special surprise to kickoff the popular Celebrity Pumpkin Roll, which begins at 11:30 a.m. Also new this year is a contest for the best table display at the Chili Cook-Off and best trunk display at the trunk or treating event.

Organizers are looking forward to kicking off the festival.

“We’re excited,” Salinas said. “It’s just a lot of fun. We try to have multiple things going on – none of the kids games or trunk or treating will start until after the Kid’s Parade because we like the kids to participate in that. The best part of Saturday is that everything wraps up at 1 p.m. It’s a nice way to spend time with your kids at an event that’s not an all-day thing. It gives you time to relax, too.”

For more information about this year’s Fall Festival, visit downtownbigrapids.com/fall-festival.

The schedule for the Fall Festival is as follows:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 22 – Scarecrow Judging at 3 p.m.
  • Friday, Oct. 24 – Chili Cook-Off will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the City Hall parking lot under the Big Tent.
  • Saturday, Oct. 25 – Children and Pet Costume Parade at 10:30 a.m. (line-up by 10:20 a.m. at movie theater)  The parade will feature the Ferris State University Pep Band.
  • Events taking place after the parade until 1 p.m. – Ferris State University volunteers kid’s games and activities at the City Hall parking lot.
  • Trunk or Treat at the City Hall parking lot.
  • Inflatable Streetfair and climbing wall along Michigan Avenue.
  • Salvation Army hot chocolate.
  • Bob Evans cookies and coffee.
  • Downtown Business Association donuts and apple cider – Provided by Bernie’s Place and Meijer.

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