With attractions for people of all ages, the Coal Country Chamber of Commerce’s 19th annual Fall Festival ushers in the autumn season from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23, in Benld’s City Park.
“We like to think of our Fall Festival as a last fling of the summer or first event of the fall where area families can get out, have some fun and some great food before the cooler weather arrives,” said Mickey Robinson, CCCC Executive Director. “We try to have attractions to appeal to all ages in the family to bring a lot of people into the area and promote our region as a great place to do business.”
The Festival has continuous free entertainment throughout the day and free displays and the perennial free train rides on the Coal Country Choo Choo.
In conjunction with the Fall Festival, CCCC will sponsor the 12th annual Tour de Coal bike ride, a non-competitive biking event that draws riders every year from the local area as well as many parts of Illinois and Missouri. The ride offers three route options, 13.6 miles, 35 miles, and 64.8 miles.
One of the main features of the Fall Festival has always been vendors who bring a myriad of products to Coal Country. There are upward of 65 arts and crafts exhibitors, a variety of food vendors, and the opportunity for local businesses who are members of the Chamber to introduce the public to their goods and services.
An area produce merchant will arrive with more than 500 pumpkins from 4 inches in diameter to 45-50 pounds, along with gourds, decorative squash and cider. Returning for her seventh year at the festival, an area woman will sell hand-made decorated snowmen for Christmas decorating. Other exhibitors will have for sale hand-made rag rugs, hand-made jewelry, clothing, baby quilts, kitchen items, vintage furniture and hand-made furniture. At least one vendor will have hand-made Christmas wreaths and grave blankets.
“They are beautiful,” Robinson said of the wreaths and blankets. “They normally sell out early and start taking orders.”
The Illinois Valley Economic Development Corp’s Rehabilitation Center will have a large display of decorative items for fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas that are hand-made by the Center’s clients. The Illinois Valley’s handmade large pumpkin yard decorations are well known in the area. The Center’s appearance at the Fall Festival is its largest fund-raiser of the year. The Chamber waives the booth fee for this and other non-profit groups such as churches and 501c organizations.
There also will be some “commercial” exhibitors selling such things as Watkins products, Tupperware, handbags, culinary items and other products.
A mission of the Coal Country Chamber of Commerce is to bring people from outside the area to see what local businesses, especially our members, have to offer. To that end, several local businesses also will sponsor exhibits during the Festival to promote their products and services. Some of these local businesses will be selling their products.
The food vendors have people coming back to the festival each year to munch away the day as they enjoy other sights. The vendors who are signed up for this year have quite a variety of delicious fare. Some of the choices that will be in the food court are: Italian beef sandwiches, barbecued ribs, pork steaks, cabbage rolls, rib-eye sandwiches, gyros, “big smokies”, and corn dogs. Freshly made kettlekorn will be offered, and a variety of non-alcoholic beverages. Beyond the food court, there are vendors in the other vendor areas with food products, such as honey, chocolates, taffy, and freshly baked goods.
If someone is interested in being a vendor in the arts and crafts area, please call Mickey at 217-710-5218, drop in at Hebenstreit Apartments in downtown Benld (218 E. Central), or email your name, mailing address and product list to [email protected] Look also for the Coal Country Chamber of Commerce Facebook page for more details.