Finally, Autumn Leaves Festival organizer Yvonne Nichols can take a breath.
“After everyone gets set up and we get the kinks ironed out, it gets quite a bit easier,” she said Friday morning as officials prepared for this year’s 47th annual opening ceremony. “It’s certainly been a team effort. Teamwork makes the dream work, and I think we may have a dream here.”
Nichols, who has been working on the festival since shortly after last years’ event ended, was on hand as thousands converged on Mount Airy’s Main Street for the festival, one that features more than 250 vendors, music, food, crafts and plenty of smiles.
The Autumn Leaves Festival is touted as being one of the “longest running, most successful events” on the East Coast, according to Mayor Deborah Cochran.
In opening this year’s festival, Cochran said she hopes visitors will take a little bit of Mayberry home with them when they leave.
“I don’t know any place I’d rather be right now,” she said. “This is a place where you can still get a taste of small-town America, relax and let your worries over things like the government shutdown melt away for a little while.”
Nichols, and Chamber of Commerce President Betty Ann Collins, said that so far everything was running like clockwork.
“It’s just going great,” Collins said as she waded into the crowd. “The streets are filling up, and just look, there are smiles everywhere.”
Once again, this year’s event has a second goal: To raise money for the Mount Airy Fire Department’s efforts to send disabled children to camp.
Billed as the “Fill the Boot” campaign, last year’s effort raised nearly $7,000, and Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said he hopes to surpass that goal this year.
“We think it’s a worthy cause, and we hope you open your hearts and help out with the effort,” he said.
But for Cochran, the event is all about small-town Americana.
Reading from a proclamation, she said Mount Airy is everyone’s home town.
“I, Deborah Cochran, mayor of the City of Mount Airy, do hereby proclaim Oct. 11-13 as the 47th Annual Autumn Leaves Festival in the City of Mount Airy,” she said, “and invite everyone to come experience the true spirit of America’s home town.”
As she was speaking, Nichols was already planning next year’s event.
Reach Keith Strange at email@example.com or 719-1929.