Sept. 29--JOHNSTOWN -- The Bedford Fall Foliage Festival is two weekends of fun throughout the historic town that features free music, great food and hundreds of vendors to provide an all-around good time to celebrate the spirit of autumn.
The 49th edition will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning Oct. 5-6 and continuing Oct. 12-13.
Organized entirely by volunteers, the event draws as many as 70,000 visitors to Bedford over both weekends.
"There are activities and entertainment for folks of all ages," said Elaine Housel, one of three members of the marketing committee and owner of Elaine's Wearable Art in the heart of the borough. "I'm surrounded by the food and entertainment and enjoy seeing the people who return year after year to enjoy the festivities."
Those who visit Bedford each autumn for the annual festival often leave with memories as vivid as the bright colors of the trees.
The festival in downtown Bedford features more than 400 arts and craft exhibitors, festival foods an antique car parade through Bedford and children's activities.
The Vogues, Etta Cox and Richie Fields are some of the performers scheduled for the two-weekend fete. Wandering musicians and other entertainers also will be strolling through the streets.
Despite all the attractions, Housel said many people attend the festival because of the historic atmosphere and quaint setting.
"While there have been some changes to the festival, it has remained pretty much the same for the last 20 years," Housel said. "Our philosophy is if it's not broke, don't try to fix it."
It is far from broken as the festival is thriving and attracts tens of thousands of visitors.
"We have visitors come from all over the Eastern Seaboard,"?Housel said.
Many people drive from Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
"I would say one-third of our visitors are local, one-third are regional, such as Cumberland and Hagerstown (Maryland) and one-third is from over 200 miles away," Housel said. "People find our prices reasonable and return to support our local businesses and organizations."
Housel said one of the festival's favorite attractions is the antique car parade scheduled for 2 p.m. Oct. 12.
"The festival actually began as an antique car show and over the years it has grown," Housel said. "The first show featured only 12 cars. We expect as many as 200 antique and vintage vehicles this year."
Cars must be preregistered during check-in from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Bedford High School parking lot. Plaques will be presented to the owners of the first 150 qualified antique cars.
The festival prides itself on a wide selection of foods to entice visitors.
Items that will tempt taste buds are such festival favorites as candied apples, apple cider, barbecue chicken and beef, hot sausage sandwiches, crab cakes, steak sandwiches, pizza, hot soups, french fries, kettle corns, hand-dipped ice cream, apple dumplings, funnel cakes, baked goods and candies.
Organizers tout the festival as a great small-town experience and an opportunity to enjoy a getaway weekend.
Musical entertainment runs near continuously during the festival and includes jazz, bluegrass, swing, big band, rock, blues and classic country.
Housel said the festival provides an enjoyable time for those who attend.
"People always seem to have a great time no matter what the weather," Housel said. "We see groups of women who come to make it a girls' day out."
Children will be entertained as organizers have brought back the Middle Earth Children's Theatre, a favorite with kids. There will be shows every day at the Fort Bedford Park area.
Middle Earth Studios offers charming and amusing audience participation and a puppet theater that give youngsters a chance to become part of a play.
Children of all ages are given the opportunity to put on costumes and become the actors and actresses in traditional folk tales and myths.
"There also will be pony rides, face painting, tin-punching and sand art," Housel said.
There is no admission charge, and $7 parking is available at the Bedford County Fairgrounds and old Bedford Village, with free shuttle bus rides to the festival.
More information may be obtained by visiting www.bedfordfallfestival.com or by calling the Bedford County Visitors Bureau at 623-1771.
Tom Lavis covers Features for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.com/Tom LavisTD.
If you go
What: 49th annual Bedford Fall Foliage Festival.
Where: Downtown Bedford.
When: From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 5-6 and Oct. 12-13
Information: 623-1771 or visit www.bedfordfallfestival.com.
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