CLARION — The Autumn Leaf Festival might be able to qualify for Medicare this year as it celebrates its 65th birthday, but the Clarion event isn’t planning to retire anytime soon.

In fact, the 65th Annual Autumn Leaf Festival sponsored by the U.S. Army in Clarion has many new activities scheduled between Sept. 29 to Oct. 7.

Using the theme of “A Timeless Tradition,” 2018 ALF hopes to reunite tradition with new events.

“Our grand marshal of the parade is going to be past ALF chairpersons,” Clarion Chamber of Business and Industry Executive Director Tracy Becker said. “We’re reaching out to as many of the past years as we could to invite them to come back and be part of the parade as grand marshal. One of the oldest living former chairs is Joe Izzi and he’s going to be in the parade.”

One of the most notable changes for the year is a new carnival, McGinnis Amusements of Ohio, a full-service carnival company providing amusement rides and food and game concessions in northern Ohio for more than six decades.

“They’re telling me that they’re going to be bringing 10 to 12 rides, 12 games and three food concessions,” Becker said.

The precision United States Army Drill Team that performs for presidential events and funerals, will present a special performance Saturday, Sept. 29, in front of the Clarion County Courthouse.

“These soldiers train constantly to do routines and different things,” Becker said. “Thy will make a special half hour presentation in Clarion. They don’t perform to music, it’s a silent drill. We were trying to work with them the other week, but they were doing John McCain’s funeral.”

There will be a meet and greet after the Clarion performance and videos of the drill team performances are available on YouTube.

Farmers and Crafters Day will be held on Friday, Oct. 5. The event is the biggest day of ALF, in terms of the number of people in town.

“The schools are all closed and with Applefest in Franklin being that same weekend, we found out that the Venango County schools are now also closed,” Becker said. “You’ve got kids and schools closed in two counties and the county offices are all closed.”

Becker said more people call the chamber office throughout the year to ask about Farmers and Crafters Day than any other event.

“We will have about 330 crafters on Main Street and about 31 businesses from the downtown area that are going to set up as well,” Becker said.

Becker estimates 150,000 or more people attend Farmers and Crafters Day, but it depends on the weather. The weather also impacts Saturday’s parade day. She thinks between 150,000 and 200,000 attend the Clarion Hospital Tournament of Leaves Parade, which will be held Oct. 6.

One of the changes happening over the years is how it has evolved as a regional event and continues to grow, even with competition.

“I think one of the impacts the festival has is people coming in and shopping downtown Clarion in different stores throughout the week,” Becker said. “You have the hotels out at the (Interstate 80) exit and they’re all full – no rooms down there at all. They’re buying gas and eating at the restaurants when they come in and are spending more than a day or couple days, enjoying what we have – not only in Clarion, but also in nearby areas. A full weekend of Applefest is going in Franklin during our second week. People are able to stay in one community and drive to the other community. Some of our local residents will go and take advantage of job opportunities at the food vendors because they’re always looking for some college kids.”

A complete schedule is available at www.clarionpa.com/events/autumn-leaf-festival/schedule-of-events/.

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