Fall Festivals, by any other name

Updated: May 17

September kicks off the Fall Festival season in Missouri. This weekend, Liberty and Excelsior Springs will each host festivals. The Liberty Fall Festival is celebrating its 44th year while the parade and activities have changed with the times. Excelsior Springs features “Mug Shots,” a sampling of the finest craft beers the city has to offer at its Oktober Fest.

The Gladfest and Smithville’s Oktoberfest are coming in October along with the annual Lawson Fall Festival. October is the month when the air will be crisp and cool, perfect for festival walking. There are more I’m sure, each with unique names and activities. And festival food – oh yes, there will be festival food and lots of it. Food which for unknown reasons always appeals to me while walking around and reminiscing about past Fall Festivals.

I’m not an expert but I’ve gone to many such celebrations, most in Liberty. I remember riding carnival rides on the square where you could see most of Liberty from the top of the Ferris Wheel and the Tilt-A-Whirl sitting in front of Mace’s Shoe Repair on Main Street. There w

as a “funhouse” that always scared me beyond fun plus the church booths with homemade pies and cakes for sale. Boy Scout pancake breakfasts at the American Legion Hall too.

Time change, just as we all do. I love the Fall Festival but those of my childhood and that of my children’s childhood are the ones that stand out in my mind. In the past 30 odd years, the festival has removed the carnival rides to the lower parking lot and the square is now lined with booths and food trucks. The Farmer’s Market is off on a side street, hawking their wares with the biggest pumpkins, flowers and produce around. Liberty still embodies the aura of small-town America although it lost that designation many years ago. The parade that features school bands, dance troupes and local organizations are what make Liberty’s Fall Festival a step back in time – at least for me.

The times change and while we change too, it’s nice to reminisce while enjoying foods unique to the time and place call the Fall Festival.

Chery Carr Holtman, curator, Clay County Museum

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