CLARION - There will be a limited Autumn Leaf Festival this year. After the Clarion Borough Council rejected a special events permit request from the Clarion Area Chamber of Business and Industry Executive Director Tracy Becker, most of the remaining events have been moved to the Clarion Mall in Monroe Township.
"After we found out our permit was rejected by the council we contacted the Clarion Mall and talked to them about using the mall parking lot," Becker said. "The mall is private property and in the township so no permits were required.
"We are grateful to the owners of the mall for allowing us to use it."
Clarion Borough Council rejected the permit requests over concerns that participants would not wear face masks and would not or would not be able to practice social distancing.
This is not the first time this year the chamber has moved an event to the mall. The "I Love Clarion" event this summer was moved to the mall parking lot.
The Autumn Leaf Festival normally brings in visitors from a tri-state area, but this year it was decided to keep things local due to the coronavirus.
"We usually advertise in the Pittsburgh and other markets but we did not this year because we wanted to keep it local," Becker said.
When Becker learned of the permit rejection, she had to contact all of the food vendors, crafters and others who had already registered for the event.
"I had 195 crafters signed up by the end of July. We were on track to be sold out by August," said Becker. "We contacted the crafters after we knew we had to cancel and gave them a choice."
Becker said about 60 percent of the crafters allowed the chamber to keep their deposit and use it toward next year's fees.
Others asked for a refund and others signed up the virtual crafter show.
"It has been a tough year for the crafters. They have no place to display their work," Becker said. "What has been great is most of our sponsors said to use the money toward this year's festival or hold it for next year."
Becker said she believes most people will understand the difficult circumstances of this year's ALF decisions.
"There is not one person who has not been affected by the virus," said Becker. "I was in a meeting last week and several business leaders said they were happy we were moving forward with the festival."
Becker said the day after a federal judge ruled several sections of Gov. Tom Wolf's lockdown are unconstitutional she had telephone calls asking if the ALF was back on.
"I cannot imagine at this point trying to put it back together," she said. "If the governor appeals then where would we be? I just did not want to throw everything together. I believe there would be opposition from some members of the community."
Becker added, "Going forward, we will look at everything. I think long-term, down the road for all communities across the United States, it may be questionable if they go back to the normal of hosting events."
2020 ALF details
Some of the items associated with the ALF will still be available.
The traditional ALF glasses will be available but in limited numbers.
Becker said the pre-ordered glasses have sold out but some of the stores will have glasses for sale. She said the souvenir T-shirts will also be sold but only about 750 will be available.
A new souvenir item will be a three-and-one-half inch numbered button for $10. On Saturday night a drawing will be held and the winners will receive $67.
The grand prize winner will receive $670 to recognize the 67th ALF.
According to a schedule provided by Becker, the 67th annual event will open on Thursday, Oct. 1, with a sidewalk sale along Main Street in Clarion.
Becker said this would give the downtown merchants an opportunity to exhibit their goods and invite people into the stores. Becker noted this event does not include outside vendors and is not a replacement for the usual Crafter's Day.
The sidewalk sales will continue Saturday and Sunday.
Becker said several downtown businesses had contacted her about allowing food vendors downtown.
"I was told by the council president that as long as the vendors were on private property, it would be permissible," Becker said.
The popular food vendors will be located at the mall on Friday, Oct. 2, but Becker said there would not be as many as in previous years.
A corn hole tournament will also be held on Friday, Oct. 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. That will be followed by a Karaoke night.
Saturday, Oct. 3, includes a touch-a-truck event, a kid's carnival, a car show, a live concert and an oldies concert.
Becker noted the carnival will not have rides.
"If we can raise $6,000 we will have fireworks at the end," Becker said. "There will be no indoor events due to the governor's order."
Becker said Allegheny Toyota remained as the principal sponsor and will be bring their cars to the mall.
Becker understands parking may be a problem.
"Parking is always a problem but we feel that by using the mall parking lot we should have enough parking for everyone," Becker said.
Becker said social distancing will be in effect and people are requested to wear masks. There will be four comfort stations on the mall lot, one in each corner. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed at various points.