For first time since its inception 52 years ago, the Fall Festival of Leaves will not be held in Bainbridge this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic that also forced the cancellation this month of the Festival of the Bells in Hillsboro and Greene Countrie Towne Festival in Greenfield.
“We, of course, are heartbroken because of it,” said Eileen Hatfield, secretary/treasurer for the Festival of the Leaves Committee. “But we just couldn’t take the risk of someone coming in and being ill.”
She also said there would have been no rides, which provide much of the revenue to fund the festival, and that the festival committee had a couple members pass away in recent months.
“There were just too many things for us to overcome,” Hatfield said.
The three-day festival, which actually begins with a queen pageant and parade of queen candidates on Thursday the day before the festival officially opens on Friday, was scheduled for Oct. 16-18.
Hatfield said the festival had never been cancelled or delayed before.
“This was a difficult decision and we did not take it lightly,” the festival committee said on its Facebook page. “We hope all remain in good health and are safe during these unprecedented times. We look forward to seeing you at the 53rd annual Fall Festival of Leaves, Oct. 15-17, 2021.”
The Facebook post said the decision to cancel the festival was based on an abundance of precaution, social distancing requirements, and the lack of rides.
The first Fall Festival of Leaves was planned by the former Lions Club in Bainbridge.
“The Lions discussed the showcasing of the natural attractions which are around the Bainbridge area. Being good hunting grounds, it was once roamed by the mound builders and tribes of Indians, and was known as ‘The Valley of the Kings.’ Seip Mound, Kilvert Mound and Baum Village Site, as well as many Indian artifacts still being found in the surrounding fields today, all attest to these claims,” the festival website says.
The Lions’ Club sent letters to all businesses, organizations, churches and civic-minded citizens to attend a town meeting in February 1968. More than 30 people attended the first meeting and plans were made for the first festival to be held Oct. 17-20, 1968. Otis Brodess, then Bainbridge Lions Club director, was named general chairman of the festival. Councilman Robert McCoy and Jim Krug, a past Lions Club president, assisted Brodess. Krug pointed out that the historical value of the area and the natural beauty of the surrounding hills in the fall made Bainbridge the ideal location for such an event.
“Today, his prophecy has proved true as the Fall Festival of Leaves continues to grow into one of the largest and best attended in southern Ohio,” according to the website.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.