In spite of rain, attendance and sales both favorable
by Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (September 29, 2018) – Returning this weekend after a one-year-hiatus, the Lansing Autumn Fest was by early accounts a success. A three-day community celebration, Autumn Fest has always taken place at the area known as Fox Pointe, but this year the area has been upgraded and enhanced. Autumn Fest was the first event held in the newly completed venue. The unpredictable weather had an impact on attendance, but curiosity about the new venue also attracted crowds.
Continuing the tradition
“We’re back,” said Leo Valencia, president of the Lansing Association for Community Events (LACE), the nonprofit organization that plans the fest. “We didn’t do one last year [because of construction], but we’re excited to bring it back.”
This was year six of Lansing Autumn Fest, a festival that was created to offer fun and entertainment to residents and “bring the home town back to Lansing.” The community event has included a number of activities through the years—a TF South reunion night, a chili-cook off, an open mic night at Visible Music College, a vintage baseball game, a 5K walk/run honoring LCPL Philip Martini (a Lansing marine who died while serving in Iraq), and more.
In its newly designed space, this year’s event included beer and wine sales in the pavilion, inflatables and activities in the KidZone, musical entertainment on two stages, 10 food booths, a pancake breakfast, military tributes, and a marketplace craft and vendor area.
Within the KidZone—which was open Saturday and Sunday, 12:00–5:00pm—were carnival games, scarecrow building, pumpkin decorating, an inflatable obstacle course, and a balloon artist. A second stage offered family entertainment that included a magician, karaoke, and a reptile show.
A variety of musical acts were booked for the main stage entertainment, including Latin Satin Soul, Nicole Jamrose, Nawty, M & R Rush, 2 Bukk Chukk, and Jerica Paliga.
With a mix of some popular past attractions, some new entertainment, new LACE board members, and a new venue, there was a lot to be excited about, according to Valencia. “I think the LACE committees have been rejuvenated with new members. Between the board, ambassadors, and volunteers, we were ready to go.”
New and improved
Using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Funds, the Fox Pointe site has been redesigned into a multi-use property by adding a permanent amphitheater with a grassy viewing area, an open-air pavilion, a concession stand, a ticket booth, and improved parking. The Pennsy Greenway bike and pedestrian trail also winds around the new site.
Valencia described the new amphitheater configuration as being similar to other outdoor venues in the area that have green space for viewing. “It is a Ravinia-type of environment,” he said. “That’s a big plus. It’s a nice, new area in front of the stage, and we encourage everyone to bring lawn chairs for the grassy area.” Though damp weather kept the lawn fairly soggy much of the weekend, there were plenty of fans who bundled up in their lawn chairs and enjoyed the performances.
Another advantage of the redesign is that the KidZone area could be incorporated into the main festival site, so there was no longer a need to cross Ridge Road. KidZone activities were situated at the north end of Fox Pointe.
It takes a village
Jacob Gourley is principal of Lansing’s TF South High School. He also serves as LACE vice president and volunteer co-chair. “The Fest would not be possible without the assistance of countless volunteers,” Gourley says. “Adult volunteers help us cover 20 different ‘shifts’ throughout the Fest, carrying out tasks such as checking guest IDs and issuing wristbands, supervising the KidZone areas, selling tickets, etc. Additionally, student volunteers are used for 10 additional shifts, supervising younger children in the KidZone, checking them in at the inflatables area, helping our Marketplace vendors set up on Saturday morning, etc. The TF South football team even helps us put picnic tables in place.” Gourley said 115 volunteers had signed up to make the Fest a success.
A great deal of support comes from the community in the form of financial or in-kind sponsorships, and throughout the weekend, the LACE board encouraged residents to support those businesses that were so generous. “Thanks to sponsorships, we have been able to keep it a free festival,” said Valencia.
This year’s Emerald Level Sponsor was the Lan-Oak Park District, and there were several sponsors at the Gold Level—Lansing Public Library, Thornton Township Supervisor Frank M. Zuccarelli, Homewood Disposal, Land O’ Frost, and Napleton River Oaks Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep Ram.
A taste of Lansing and beyond
Vendors served up Fest food that ranged from chili dogs to beef sandwiches to loaded baked potatoes to fried green tomatoes. Beverages and desserts were also available. Valencia said that with the upgrades at Fox Pointe, there was longer a need for food vendors to use generators, so the area was much quieter.
Something for everyone
Autumn Fest 2018 provided a range of activities throughout the three days. Children and families enjoyed activities in the KidZone. Those with an interest in history stopped at the Lansing Historical Society’s booth. Though the weather was not ideal for shopping, vendors in the Marketplace offered handmade and specialty items. The musical variety included Latin sounds, classic rock, and patriotic ukuleles. And the winner of the Local Artist Showdown, presented by Visible Music College and Living Word Church, also took the stage.
The Military Tribute this year included first responders as well as veterans. Ticket sales for Saturday morning’s Copper Mugger Pancake Breakfast honoring veterans and first responders exceeded expectations, and the Copper Muggers nearly ran out of food. At the ceremony following the breakfast, Debbie Waitekus, LACE co-chair for the tribute ceremony, presented plaques to Fire Chief Templeman, Police Chief Murrin, and Trustee Maureen Grady-Perovich for her work enrolling veterans on Honor Flight Chicago.
At a presentation on Saturday night, Communications Director Ken Reynolds told the crowd they were part of history, because Autumn Fest 2018 was the first event at the new Fox Pointe. “Beginning in 2019,” he said, “many more events are to come, but this will always be the first one.”
Reynolds also thanked the members of the Lansing Association for Community Events and affirmed for the crowd what a significant role LACE plays in Lansing:
Early feedback from Autumn Fest attenders has been largely positive. Comments included the following:
- “Great looking venue.”
- “What a great place. The layout was fantastic. Its very open and inviting yet was easy enough to close off for the fest.”
- “I am so incredibly proud of my community for creating such a beautiful space. I enjoyed Autumn Fest and I look forward to the next event.”