As I’m typing this column, Lansing Autumn Fest is a few hours away. By the time you read this, two days of the fest will be past us. The event has definitely met the goal of bringing the community together. It’s a huge effort that takes an entire community.
So many community groups, nonprofit organizations and business owners have been eager to take part. This weekend has included local food vendors, crafters, artisans, performers, volunteers and more. Those helping out range the gamut from students to seniors. Our Police Department, Fire Department, Public Works Department and Park District have been involved. Our churches and civic organizations have been involved.
It’s so great to see such cooperation from so many to realize the fest’s motto of “Bringing the Hometown back to Lansing.” At the last meeting of the Lansing Association for Community Events before the festival, Treasurer Debbie Waitekus mentioned as she was driving west on Ridge Road one recent evening, she saw all the lights on the trees and the big sign in front of Beggar’s Pizza all lit up and she said it reminded her of a scene from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It reminded her of what a lovely community it is we live in. It really is a wonderful place. This fest is proof of that.
I think this fest has filled a void that has been missing in town for a few years as some of the big events and traditions of the past have gone away. Now we have an event that can pull us all back together and make us really proud of our community. It feels like a “hometown” again, one where you want to stay or one that you want to return to.
When you’ve got a church pulling the whole congregation together to bake cupcakes and brownies and you have a whole high school football team pitching in to unload the picnic tables and a group of ministers from a number of different churches putting on a community worship service together, you know it’s a community effort and that it’s something special. I hope everyone in town is taking some time this weekend to enjoy the fest.
So, what’s in store on the final day? The fest is open starting at 10 a.m. with coffee and doughnuts and the military recognition and entertainment starting at 11. Stop and enjoy the patriotic music and thank a veteran. There will also be a blood drive and the donations go to a network that supplies blood to veteran hospitals.
In the afternoon, there’s the second annual Chili Cook-Off. For $5, you can get an entry to taste each of the competitors. There will be a panel of celebrity judges, including Times food writer Phil Potempa, Meghan Baehr, producer of the Emmy-award winning show "Trisha's Southern Kitchen" starring Trisha Yearwood, 33rd District State Rep. Marcus Evans, 34th District State Rep. Elgie Sims and 4th District Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore.
Rounding out the day will be the vintage base ball game at Winterhoff Park at 3:30 p.m. It will be played by the rules of 1858 with the Munster Centennials playing a group of local guys who will be called the Lansing Brickman, an ode to the clayholes that employed many Lansing men as brickmakers in the early days. The game is a continuation of the celebration of Lansing’s 120th anniversary this year. Come on out for some old-fashioned family fun, sip on some sarsaparilla and pretend you’ve gone back in time to the 19th century.
And of course, there will be more food, marketplace vendors, children’s activities and entertainment throughout the day. For more fest details, go to www.lansingautumnfest.org or visit the Facebook page or find the fest on Twitter.com at @LansAutumnFest.