DENHAM SPRINGS — Unseasonably hot weather apparently didn’t have a significant effect on the annual Fall Festival held Oct. 5 on North Range Road in the heart of the Antique Village.
Organizers of the event estimated that a record crowd once again filled the historic downtown area to visit booths containing many and varied crafts, sample food offerings and listen to live music.
Al Bye, chairman of the festival, said 170 booths, a record number, were available for the many visitors who flocked to the event.
Donna Jennings, manager of the Denham Springs Antique Village, a Louisiana Main Street Community and Cultural District, said the crowd appeared to be of record-breaking numbers. “It’s 11 a.m., and I’m estimating that there are about 6,000 visitors now on the streets. Everyone appears to be enjoying the event though it is hot,” she said.
Bye said that he had already had some of the merchants manning their booths ask for applications for the Spring Festival, which is held at the same venue. “It will probably be cooler for the Spring Festival than it is today, but the people are here once again, and it just goes to show how popular our festivals in the Antique District are. There are many booths with a wide variety of things to offer so our visitors have much to choose from,” he said.
Bye points out that organizing the festivals is a real challenge because North Range Road (La. 16) is a major thoroughfare that has to be blocked off so that vendors can erect their tents down the middle of the street. The highway is closed early in the morning, and it must be opened reopened in the evening. The vendors must move quickly to get their stands up and running and have to move with equal haste at day’s end.
Jenny Bauer, who volunteers with exhibits and other activities at the Old City Hall Museum and is a veteran of numerous Fall and Spring Festivals, said she was impressed with the number of new products being offered at this year’s event.
“Our festivals remain popular, and every year we see many of the regulars coming back and there is always something new for those who come to shop. This is a big day for the downtown area. It’s great that so many people come to the festival. Once they see what we have to offer, many will come back again,” she said.
E.J. Bruce, proprietor of E.J.’s Antiques, said of the festival, “This means a lot to the merchants in the Antique Village. Many people have been coming into my shop. ... Everyone is in a good mood and seems to be enjoying the day. People are out for a good time and that creates a nice atmosphere. Visitors come into the store and look at what we have to offer, and I know from experience that some of them will come back to purchase items that are too big to carry around. This is a special day for us.”
Shopping in his store were Brad and Jennifer Wiley, of Hickman, Kentucky. Wiley said the couple, both antique enthusiasts, learned about the festival through the internet and decided to spend a few days in Denham Springs to attend it.
Brad Wiley said with a smile, “Today is Jennifer’s birthday, and I am going to buy her an antique for this special occasion. She’s looking around for something now.”
The Wileys said they were enjoying their visit to Denham Springs and looked forward to trying out some signature Louisiana dishes.
A young couple sitting on a bench in front of the Theater Antiques Mall, Albert and Lindsey Martin, said they come to the festivals every year to “check out what’s for sale and to enjoy the food.”
The couple, accompanied by their 10-month-old daughter, Charlotte, said young people enjoy the festivals because of the opportunity it offers to learn about downtown and to meet friends and relatives for a day of fellowship.
Elvin Watts, Bye’s partner in the Theater Antiques Mall, said that his venue had been especially busy.
“The crowds are really good, and we have had lots of people come in. Even though LSU is playing a football game at 11 a.m. and the weather is hot, we have a great crowd today, and once again our festival appears to be a big success.”