The return on Saturday of the Denham Springs Antique Village Fall Festival, after a year’s absence because of the coronavirus pandemic, attracted huge crowds that swarmed the city’s Downtown Historic District.

Shoppers browsed at a record number of crafts booths set up by vendors from throughout the region, shopped in the district’s antiques venues and gift shops, sampled various food items, and listened to live music that entertained visitors throughout the day.

The day’s event officially opened at 10 a.m., but parking spaces in the area were at a premium hours before starting time as visitors from a wide area flocked to the festival. An informal survey of crafts vendors and shop owners indicated that business was brisk as the visitors seemed eager to purchase the wide array of items for sale.

Al Bye, president of the Denham Springs Downtown Antique & Merchants Association, sponsors of the event along with Pelican State Credit Union and Visit Livingston Parish, said that a record number of visitors filled the downtown area for this year’s Fall Festival. Over the past several years, Fall and Spring Festivals are held in the Antique Village, and Bye said that this year’s edition exceeded all previous such events.

“This year’s festival was more than we anticipated, and we are very grateful for all of those who came to our festival,” he said.

Donna Jennings, executive director of Main Street Denham Springs, an organization that assists in promoting the festival, agreed.

“This fall festival was one fantastic event," Jennings said. "The crowds were overwhelming, and it seemed that everyone was having a great time. After a year without the fall festival, people in our community and from surrounding areas just seemed like they wanted to get out and have a good time. I noticed families strolling together, friends congregating along the streets to chat and enjoy the fellowship, and everyone just enjoying a day together in our historic district.”

Jennings said that the festival represents a great deal of effort on the part of many. The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Denham Springs Fire Department set up booths focused on educating young visitors to the festival. Healing Place Church had inflatable jump houses to entertain the youngsters. Live music at the train station stage featured several bands.

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Bye said that weeks before the festival, vendors had rushed to file applications for participation. “We had 160 vendors at the festival, the maximum number that we can accommodate, and they were all eager to participate. We had no trouble filling all the spaces available,” he said.

One of those vendors, Floyd Sullivan, who was selling handmade wooden toys, said that business was good, and even though it was early in the day, sales were steady. Sullivan related that this was the fourth time he has set up his booth at the Fall Antique Festival and added that he always does well at the event. He said he works on creating wooden toys and other items throughout the year and sells his creations at various shows and festivals.

Kathy Benton Harris, who was handling customers at the Benton’s Antique Mall, said she was thrilled with the return of the Fall Festival. "I have been greeting and meeting customers all morning, and I am just thrilled to welcome all of our visitors to the Antique Village.”

Visitors with a sweet tooth were keeping Christine Kent busy selling cupcakes and other delights. She said this was her first Fall Festival but that she was enjoying the experience. “I bake all my items from scratch, and I think that they are really good, and so far the people who are buying my cupcakes seem to be enjoying them. It’s fun to be a part of this,” she said.

Gerry R. Coryell, president and chief engineer of the Cajun Yankee and Southern Railroad, entertained curious visitors who flocked around the model trains he and other members of the Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders were demonstrating in front of the Old Denham Springs City Hall Museum. Coryell was kept busy answering questions about model railroading from a steady stream of visitors.

Jennings said that success of the Fall Antique Festival is the result of weeks of planning and hard work on the part of the Downtown Antique & Merchants Association and numerous other groups and individuals who sponsor the festival.

“Many good people work to put this special event together, and they are doing an important service to our city," she said. "The tremendous success of today’s festival shows us once again that the Historic Downtown Area of Denham Springs remains a vital and important part of our city. People love to come down here to explore the shops and booths and shop for the many items that are on sale. The whole community can be grateful for those who made all this happen. It’s been a tiring but fun day for those who so successfully put on this event.”