An outdoor show of more than 300 juried artisans who offer an array of handmade creations will be available from Sept. 1-3 at Frankfort Fall Festival 2012. | File photo
◆ 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sept. 1-2 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 3
◆ 123 Kansas St., Frankfort
◆ Admission, free
◆ (815) 469-3356;
Updated: October 1, 2012 4:06PM
One of the Southland’s biggest autumn festivals returns on Labor Day weekend.
With a theme of Carnivale, Frankfort Fall Festival 2012 runs Aug. 31-Sept. 3 in downtown Frankfort.
The 44th annual festival recently was named the sixth best festival in the United States by Sunshine Artist magazine, chairwoman Cindy Heath said.
“We’re really proud of (that),” she said. “It’s judged by the artisans who attend, and it reflects the high quality and the standards and the great volunteers we have working the festival.
“If you look at the top 10 in the nation, ours is the only one run by volunteers. We try to maintain it as being a friendly, family-oriented, high-quality craft show with something for everybody.”
Frankfort Fall Festival began as a community picnic in 1935 as a fundraiser for the all-volunteer fire department.
The cause, name and location of the festival changed several times through the years — it was a Town and Country Jamboree in 1957 and a German-themed Sauerkraut Day in 1961— but by the late 1960s the festival had settled into the current end-of-summer celebration.
The fest now attracts more than 300,000 visitors to Frankfort during the course of Labor Day weekend to view the works and wares of more than 300 artisans.
According to Heath, there aren’t many changes this year, just subtle improvement.
“We’re keeping the entire format the same, with over 300 craft booths, Beta entertainment tent, a carnival and free entertainment stage,” she said.
“There’s a little bit of improvements to all of that. We did two things to improve the layout for artisans this year.
“One is, (the) lot was relandscaped and cleared this year by the village. They created a long entrance ramp going into it.
“It was hidden from the public in the past and is now one of our premier lots. It has vendors in it and will be very open and visible.
“Another area of improvement is that on the east side of the Breidert Green entertainment stage we have what we are calling the artisan demonstrators area.
“I selected seven artisans to be located on that grassy area. These particular crafters are unique in that they are going to be demonstrating their craft in their booth for the people who come to the festival.”
There’s a glassblower, a pottery artist, a man who makes gold and silver jewelry using antique tools, somebody making leather purses, a vendor demonstrating a golf game, a caricature artist and a face painter, she said.
“It’s a combination of artisan craft booths and entertainment,” Heath said.
Speaking of Breidert Green, that is where you will find two large shade tents with planks and hay bales on which to sit. That’s where live entertainment will be happening nonstop throughout the festival.
“We tried to keep with the Carnivale theme in that we have a Dixieland band, we have jazz bands, and some brass bands,” she said.
“You can grab a bite to eat at the civic food court next door and sit down and listen to some free entertainment. If you’re looking for rock music, that is what the Beta tent is for.”
The civic food court, staffed by area civic groups, will sell a variety of food.
Although the fest doesn’t officially begin until Sept. 1, the Beta beer and entertainment tent opens Aug. 31 with the classic rock band Five Guys Named Moe performing at 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 1’s lineup includes the bluegrass combo Leadfoot and Bluegrass Escape at 1 p.m., and the variety group Midlife Crisis at 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 features the pop-rock band Timing’s Everything from 1-5 p.m. and 1980s rock band Funhouse at 7 p.m.
The fest closes Sept. 3 with the Bishop playing rock music from 1-5 p.m.
There is an admission charged at the Beta tent for adults, while ages 12 and younger can attend for no charge until 6 p.m. After that, no one younger than 21 years old will be admitted.
The Lincoln-Way East High School Music Boosters will serve pizza, nachos, beef sandwiches, water and pop in the tent.
The carnival will have more rides, a better layout, an automated teller machine and its own porta-potties this year, Heath said.
“Everything is a little improved from a little before,” she said. “Our goal is to be the absolute best festival in the nation.”
A can’t-miss at the fest is the parade, which begins at 1 p.m. Sept. 2 at Ash and Nebraska streets.
Although there is a big carnival, impressive parade and lots of live music, the festival is defined by the artists on the street, Heath said.
“We try to get a wide variety,” she said. “We definitely strive for different categories and encourage people to do different things.”
Vendors will feature a number of items from homemade foodstuffs and doll clothes to fine arts, jewelry, glass, metalwork, woodcrafts and photography.
“People can expect to see a high quality of merchandise and a very friendly atmosphere, with something to do with every member of the family,” she said.
“It’s the kind of event where we wanted to reflect the very high-quality, homey, Mayberry-like atmosphere of Frankfort, while still providing entertainment for everyone.”
There will be two community parking lots this year.
The Peace Community Church paved lot is a half mile south of U.S. 30 at LaGrange Road.
The Frankfort Boy Scout Troop 260 grassy lot is off LaGrange Road on West Nebraska Street, one mile south of U.S. 30.
Both lots require a $10 donation.
Annie Alleman is a freelance writer.