Frankfort a boomtown for fall fest
By Janet Lundquist email@example.com September 2, 2012 6:00PM
Tony Talley, dressed for New Orleans, walks along the parade route for Sojurn Therapeutic Riding Center, during the parade for Frankfort Fall Fest in Frankfort, IL on Sunday September 2, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 4, 2012 6:17AM
The village of Frankfort is not a metropolis.
But for one weekend each year, it may as well be.
On Labor Day weekend, people come from miles around — and from across the country — to sell their wares and shop at the Frankfort Fall Festival.
It is an event that has blossomed over 44 years. The festival takes over Frankfort’s quaint, quiet downtown, filling it with carnival rides, live music, food and some of the most-sought-after artisans in the country.
The festival’s art and craft offerings — from about 300 artisans from 32 states — are its primary draw.
“I do love to shop, I’ll say that,” said Cindy Heath, this year’s festival chairwoman. “And my house is filled with stuff I bought at the Frankfort Fall Festival.”
While she spoke with a reporter Sunday morning, Heath, who has helped organize the event for the last 30 years, was getting her face painted to match her “giant peacock” costume for the festival parade Sunday afternoon.
Her husband, Al, contributed to the haul from each fest, buying things Heath never knew she wanted.
“Stuff I’d say, ‘Who would buy that?’ — it would show up in my house,” she said.
Kay and Patrick Hylton of Palos Heights have visited the festival each year for the last 27 years, having spent one of their first dates wandering the aisles of artisan booths.
“This town has just boomed, and this (festival) has gotten huge,” Kay Hylton said. “The reason we came was that the artisans were better quality.”
Judee Olechno of Chicago joined the Hyltons’ shopping excursion Sunday morning, and said she was keeping an eye out for potential birthday and holiday gifts.
Paul Tanty of Plainfield and his family have made a point of visiting the festival each year since 1984.
“It’s dad’s birthday, he gets to eat his way through the fair,” said Cynthia Tanty of Allegan, Mich., who was with Paul as well as Megan Rhodes of Gardner. The trio sat on a bench on Breidert Green Sunday morning, eating a snack and watching a band set up for a performance.
The variety of crafts for sale — and the food — are what brings them back, Rhodes said.
At first, Paul said, it was to watch Rhodes march with the Anna McDonald Grade School band in the festival’s annual parade.
This year’s parade was no different, and stepped off at 1 p.m. Sunday. Eager parade watchers had already set up folding chairs along the parade route before 10 a.m.
Even though the festival has grown over the years, it still has a local, small-town feel. The grand marshals for this year‘s parade, for example, are longtime Frankfort residents and local activists John and Judy Herder.
Planners have kept a number of traditional elements in the event, such as the parade, a beer tent and a carnival, but try to incorporate new features each year.
Last year, the carnival was moved to a village-owned parking lot east of White Street, which made room on Breidert Green for a demonstration area.
Artisans would show onlookers how they made the pottery, leather, glass and metal work they had for sale.
The festival is made possible by hundreds of local volunteers who work all weekend to ensure things run smoothly.
Heath’s daughter, Corielle Heath of Miami, Fla., flew in so she could spend the weekend working the fest.
Having spent her whole life helping her parents coordinate the event, it’s second nature for her. And, she said, a blast.
“It’s like Christmas,” she said.
The Frankfort Fall Festival will continue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday.