On a beautiful late summer Saturday, over 5,500 people took advantage of Garden City Downtown Vision’s annual extravaganza known as FallFest and celebrated what soon will be a change of seasons in the core district of Main Street.

“We couldn’t have asked for any better weather than what we had on Saturday for our 14th annual FallFest,” said Sheila Crane, Downtown Vision executive director. “It was a great day to stroll Main Street from Fulton Street to Stevens Park and take in the fun, delicious smells and good mix of vendors and wares.”

There were 105 booths on display, up from 85 in 2017. One change made this year was moving the Kansas Kruisers Car Show to Stevens Park and setting up individual booths in the 200 block of Main Street. Organizers lined up booths into two rows running down the center of Main, allowing for more pedestrian space to keep the crowds from a bottle neck at popular food stalls and the entertainment arena at Main and Laurel streets.

“We had a packed entertainment schedule this year,” Crane said. “Show choirs, dance groups, the GCHS drumline, gymnastics and other music and talent performers provided an opportunity for folks to sit on benches for a few minutes and watch and listen to kids aged 3 and up sing and dance their way into the audience’s hearts. It was so cute and such fun for everyone to see, and of course there were plenty of proud grandparents taking pictures and video.”

Cars ‘n’ tunes

According to Cory King, Kansas Kruisers’ president, his organization managed to get 105 vehicles into Stevens Park for the car show that drew large crowds from all walks of life and age groups. The Fulton Street Band played rock ‘n’ roll standards for those looking at the entries.

“We could not be more pleased with the turnout for our car show,” King said. “America has always had a love affair with its cars, iconic or not, and for many it’s a trip down memory lane when they walk through. If nothing else, folks have a great appreciation for the hours of work and money tied up in restoring a vehicle. And of course, everyone has a first car story.”

In addition to the beauty and pride invested into the cars, trucks and occasional motorcycle, there was a bit of humor as Dennis Kleysteuber, Garden City, had a life-size mannequin of Donald Trump safely strapped in the passenger side of his fully restored 1940 Chevy pickup. Occasionally people would ask for their picture to be taken seated next to the president, and more than once the model had to be strapped back into his seat.

King said the show attracted the very first 1967 Camero built (had the VIN of 01). It was built by hand as a prototype to compete with the Ford Mustang. Father and son owners Corey and Logan Lawson, Hutchinson, painstakingly researched and searched for original handmade Camero parts to restore it. Just 10 of the 52 prototypes exist today.

According to King, the Kansas Kruisers is a close-knit group that takes the proceeds made from its car shows and put it back into the community. They have provided funding for veteran Honor Flights, Meals on Wheels, gas cards for cancer patients needing treatment at out-of-town cancer centers and other projects.

“Five years ago, there were five of us who began Kansas Kruisers,” he said. “To be honest, I did it because I needed to find an activity my son and I could do that would help keep him out of trouble. We now have 70-plus members who have to be some of the most generous and kind people you’ll ever meet. And we love that through our car shows we can give back to our communities.”

The organization’s next community event is its Trunk or Treat scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 27 at Samy’s Spirits and Steakhouse.

Celebration within a celebration

It was indeed a momentous anniversary for the local Knights of Columbus organization as they celebrated its 50th Oktoberfest on Saturday. In addition to the traditional German food they’ve provided for five decades, they had beer steins available for purchase, a free dance at their Eighth Street hall, and other golden anniversary events. Oktoberfest joined Downtown Vision’s FallFest 13 years ago and has been a staple of the event every year since.

For Leigh Kepley, owner of Little Britches, 320 N. Main St., FallFest presents a lively occasion to recognize her years in retail sales as she runs an anniversary sale throughout the week prior to the Downtown event.

“We are usually pretty busy on FallFest Saturday as ladies use the downtown event to take time to check out the new fall lineup of clothing, shoes and accessories,” Kepley said. “We use it to thank our customers for their continued support and to introduce new lines of merchandise and accessories. We all have just a great time throughout the day.”

Jeff Schaefer from Brown’s Shoe Fit said his store sees a good uptick from the event as it signals to many folks that fall and winter are just around the corner and it’s time for new shoes. Schafer, who is also a Downtown Vision board member, said the organization continues to grow the event. Proceeds are applied toward new light pole banners, more Main Street trash receptacles and other beautification projects.

Customer exposure

For vendors like Ryan Klaus, partner in Klaus Wood Pellets/Traeger Grills, Robert DeLeon, executive director of the not-for-profit CASA (Court-appointed Special Advocates), and Rebecca Bowling with Smoky Hills Vineyards and Winery, Salina, FallFest is a great economical way to access a wide group of potential customers and volunteers within a relatively short amount of time.

“For us, it’s wonderful to get out in front of a wider cross-section of community members to explain what CASA does, what it entails and the need for both volunteers and financial support,” DeLeon said. “And since FallFest draws from all over southwest Kansas and beyond, we get to speak with a lot of people about our advocacy work in a very fun and busy event.”

Klaus, who has been attending FallFest with his work with the Knights of Columbus Oktoberfest, is now readying his new Traeger grill and supplies store to open in early October. He and his partners, Paul Chmielewski and Kenny Coons, were busy on Saturday handing out samples of grilled pork roast with a variety of seasonings and rubs in front of his new location, 401 N. Main St.

Smoky Hills Vineyards attended FallFest in 2017 and had a good response to its presence, making it an easy decision to come back this year.

“Our wine products are regularly featured in most local and area liquor stores that people can sample one of our wines at FallFest and be able to find it at their local package goods store. We have a nice fan base here,” Bowling said.

Little quack, big quack

Buck-A-Duck races for kids, sponsored by Golden Plains Credit Union, and the Western Motors Nasduck 500 races both drew crowds that enjoyed the fun yellow floaters competition throughout the late morning and early afternoon. Winners of the Buck-A-Duck heats were awarded $5, and the winner-takes-all Nasduck took home $1,000.

“It was a very successful event this year, and we plan to continue to make it even better next year,”  Crane said of her first FallFest. “Someone said it wouldn’t quite be a change in seasons without FallFest, so plans are now to escort autumn in with an even better downtown event.”