Officials say that the turnout yesterday for the 46th Annual Autumn Leaves Festival is the largest in the history of the festival. They said good weather and a larger number of vendors drew the record crowd.
“We have a larger number of people than we had last year. The weather has been great. We had a great group of tourists that have come in to visit our community,” said Mount Airy Police Chief Dale Watson. “It is very well-organized and that makes for a good event,” said Watson.
He said there are an increased number of officers on duty just for the Autumn Leaves Festival.
“We increased our presence to ensure the safety of those who are visiting our city,” said Watson.
Jonathan Bledsoe, director of Surry County 911 Communications, said the crowd on Saturday were comparable or larger than those of last year.
“There was a very large amount of people at the festival on Saturday. I think more people came in earlier this year. The weather was beautiful. The crowds were abundant,” said Bledsoe.
There was a lot of buzz surrounding the visit of the founder of Sabika Jewelery on Saturday. Karin Mayr and her two daughters were on hand for the afternoon. The Sabika booth was that of Consultants Michella Huff and Michele Wertman. Drawings were being held and part of the proceeds are going to support breast cancer research and treatment.
This was the first of the Sabika Pink parties being held.
Mayr said they had no idea the turnout would be so great on Saturday.
“Everyone here is so friendly. This has been amazing,” said Mayr.
She said she got her start in the jewelery business 11 years ago when she talked with some women artisans in her homeland of Austria. All of the jewelery is handmade by women in Austria and Germany, according to her daughter, Alexandra Gracik.
Gracik said the company gave $133,000 to support breast cancer programs last year. She said they are hoping to double that amount this year. After Mount Airy, the family will be heading to stops in Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“We are a company that sells jewelery made by woman for woman,” said Gracik.
On Independence Boulevard, volunteers for the Sandy Level Community were cranking out collard green sandwiches as fast as they could and they still had a line that was at least 150 people long.
Lyn and Stephen Carter of Ararat wanted to know what the big deal was all about.
“It’s all about the fatback,” said a passerby.
Festival newcomer Danny Speer with Glazed & Infused was selling fried bologna and rib eye sandwiches on Independence Boulevard as well.
“We’ve been wide open,” said Speer, who said he secret is his Tongue Slappin’ sauce.
The festival continues today. The hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Reach Mondee Tilley at email@example.com at 719-1930.