Chamber of Commerce Frankfort Fall Festival

Prelude to the Fest:

The first time the words “Fall Festival” appeared related to events in Frankfort was in October of 1950.  In an effort to raise funds to purchase a 20 acre park, the community held a picnic called “The Frankfort 1890’s Fall Festival” to raise funds.

In 1958 the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce was created and held a two day “Town and Country Jamboree” in early October.  In 1961, an outdoor German Festival featuring homemade  sauerkraut made its first appearance. This was called “The Sauerkraut Day Jamboree and Sauerkraut Day” in local newspapers – sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

1968 – The Chamber of Commerce marks this as the First “Frankfort Fall Festival”.  Prior community celebrations were coordinated into a single event organized by the Chamber, in cooperation with the Village of Frankfort, and Fire Department and numerous civic groups.  They named it “The Chamber of Commerce Frankfort Fall Festival”

1971 – Public Address speakers were placed on the Luscombe’s building and Aurelio’s restaurant for communications.

1972 – The fire station located at Luscombe’s was wired to the information booth at the center of Kansas Street providing phone service to the booth.

1973 – The Historic Society initiated the horse drawn wagon Historic tours of Frankfort during the Fall Festival. – The former Grainery building at the SE corner of Elwood and N. Oak is converted to an antique shopping mall which became a year-around attraction to the downtown and Fest area.

1976 – The parade honored the United States of America Bicentennial

1979 – The parade honored the Frankfort Volunteer Fire Departments celebration of the Centennial.

1981 – In the parade, the Boy Scouts honored the hostages being held at the Iran embassy by carrying an American flag for each of the 70 hostages

1982 – A system of subcommittees (Sanitation, Civics, Parade, Artisans etc.) was created with “Chair and Co-chair” creating a succession of ascension to fill the role. The parade featured the arrest of “the Blues Brothers” which was broadcast over Joliets’ WCCQ radio station.

1983– Logistics were employed to expedite the set up.  One way traffic patterns during set up and breakdown reduced the amount of time required. – Walkie talkies were introduced to coordinate communications between volunteers.

1984 – Detailed handwritten “Narrative” was created to standardize the street markings for booth space. – Downtown was “wired” to allow music and public announcement to be broadcast throughout the Festival.

1985 – The Grainery shopping mall burns and is replaced by a gravel lot.  This makes way for future expansion of the Festival.

1986 -From 1983 to 1986 the Boy Scouts man the Public Parking in the farm field owned by Herb Folkers.  Today this land is a subdivision bisected by Old Frankfort Way.

1988 – The “Beer Tent” shifts location to East Kansas Street.  Electric service was added to the Briederts Green under the operation of the Chamber of Commerce Fall Fest Committee. – The “Stencil Street Marker” was invented.  This 10’X10’ wooden frame was used to expedite the measuring and marking of booth spaces.

1989 – Frankfort Chamber of Commerce won the honor of “Governors Hometown Award” for volunteer efforts to improve the community through Fall Festival.  Implementation of the standardizing number system to correspond with areas of the festival.

1990 – Volunteers adopt “Day-Glo” Shirts for a single year.

1991 – Honoring the 50 years since the USA entered WWII, the Parade Grand Marshalls were veterans of that war.

1992 – The Fall Festival committee assumes responsibility for the Parade held on Sundays.  It was a massive success and the committee organizes the parade to this day.  

1993 – Late in the day Emergency sirens filled the air as a mushroom cloud of black smoke appeared to the South of town.  The Mobile plant was on fire.

1994 – Emergency crowd evacuation plans were developed.  – The Fall Fest Logo was service marked preserving our claim to the name and image.

1996 – State issued Speciality  Fall Festival license plates are sold to the public and were spotted on 200 vehicles 3 months prior the the fest. – The Trolley Barn is purchased and over the next few years is converted into a shopping mall.  This adds a new attraction to the Festival.

1997 – Fall Fest is honored to be named to Sunshine Artists list of the Best 200 shows in the United States. – Amidst controversy over ownership of the Beer Tent, a new organization is created to operate the Tent called “BETA”.  The Tent moves back to the parking lot to the west of Briederts Green.           

1998 –  Old Plank Trail opens allowing bicycles and walking traffic to flow to the Fest.  The Old Town Homeowners set up a bike corral for parking. The Fall Fest Committee institute’s a new tradition, the Pre-fest picnic for volunteers.

2000 – The Fall Fest Committee implements an “overnight” patrol to watch over the booths in a new Friday night set up agreement with the Village

2001 – Two weeks before the festival, two restaurants located on the SE corner of S. Oak and Kansas caught fire.  The damage was severe and the businesses could not open for the Fest. – The Hockey sports club was hired to help with sanitation. This was a huge step forward in the clean up and removal of trash from Festival – The Chamber of Commerce purchases a lot at the SE corner of N.Oak and Elwood.  This is now the largest single area of the Artisans booth arrangements.

2002 – A locating system was implemented to allow for laser accurate measuring and marking of the streets.  This retired the use of the Stencil Street Marker.  

2003 – Volunteers adopt “Tye-Dyed” shirts for the “Love Fest” for a single year.

2004 – 3 year plan to reconfigure the Footprint of the Fest is proposed to the Village.  With the proposals approval the following changes were made. The Briederts Green stage is used for entertainment, Carnival rides are moved to phase one change.  Food Court is created, bringing Civic booths up to outdoor code with electricity.  All electric service is rewired and “spider-boxes” are implemented providing better safety and service to participants.

2005 – The Theme rolls out the German heritage of the Village and the downtown takes on the appearance of an Oktoberfest. 

2006 – Ahead of schedule the 3 year plan is complete.  The parts of the Carnival are moved to the Village parking lot east of the fest.  This allows for more rides and better management of the Carnival Area.

2007 – The Information Booth is replaced with a larger and sophisticated structure.

2008 – Parade Grand Marshals were the veterans of our armed forces, ARMY NAVY MARINES, AIR FORCE and COAST GUARD.  Big election year featured Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and other costumed candidates in the parade

2009 – Fall Fest’s Social Media presence is created.  The Facebook page receives 2,000 followers in the first year!  The Theme “ Wild Wild Fest” is introduced to the public and promoted throughout the Fest.  The Fest makes its first appearance at the Business Expo, dealing BlackJack in a Wild West Saloon booth. Lincoln Way High School students participated in a poster contest depicting the theme for the first time.

2011 – At the suggestion of the Village, 1 N. White Street parking lot is approved for Carnival. This opened the Village parking lot for organization use and expanded the Carnival.

2012 – Artisans are placed on Briederts Green to provide public demonstrations of the process of creating products.  The Volunteer sign-up system goes on-line eliminating the use of paper spreadsheets to track assignments.

2013 – A Flash mob of dancing  Zombies invade the Festival ribbon cutting.

2014 – St. Peter’s Church won the Trophy for Best Float in the Parade by steering a gigantic ARK full of animals driven by NOAH – THE FIRST SUPERHERO through a tight parade route.

2015 – Booths are placed on North side of White Street to allow more shopping and access to Businesses.  The Physical Space committee created a Cad Drawing of the Fest.  This digital representation of the Fest provided a big help to this and future Fests.

2016 – White street is closed to through traffic allowing flow of foot traffic to booths that line both sides of the street. 

2017 – BETA disbands causing the Chamber of Commerce to assume responsibility for this area.  With cooperation from the Village, the area is no longer a tent, but an open air Garden.

2018 – Further improvements are made to the Garden and Civic Booths creating a smooth flow of foot traffic between the Food Court, Garden, and Entertainment areas. 

2019 – Improved layout and design of the Food Court included uniform Civic Booths white tents and standard sign display.  

2020 – The only time since 1968 that the Fall Festival was cancelled.  The Pandemic restrictions related to Covid-19 limits sizes of crowds and activities. The Frankfort Area Historic Society arranges a historical exhibit celebrating the Frankfort Fall Festival in spirit.           

August 19, 2020

Compiled by Cheryl Howard – with a lot of help from my friends.

Contributors: Cindy Heath, Al Heath, Sam Schoeler, Sue Walker, Ralph Eisenbrandt, Ann Karyn Bettenhausen, Mark Giovanazzi, Bob Peters, Renee Matlock    , Terry White, Kris Pasquini 

Frankfort Chamber of Commerce