49th Colorfest gears up for 'sea of people'
Ed Waters Jr.
(10/9) The fall season is full of festivals, but none come close to the size and variety of Catoctin Colorfest.
This weekend the changing color of the leaves will be joined by many colors from vendors, craftspeople and musicians at Thurmont Community Park.
An estimated 125,000 visitors will travel for the 49th year of the free festival, which features 250 vendors.
"There will be a sea of people," said Carol Robertson, president of Catoctin Colorfest Inc.
"I'm only responsible for the 250 vendors in the park, but there are vendors all over town, usually about 1,000," Robertson said during an interview in the park.
Those vendors in the park, under the Colorfest official umbrella, are juried crafts.
"Each vendor has to make his or her own crafts and be here to sell it," Robertson said. "You won't find something made in China for sale here."
Seventy-five percent of vendors return each year, most signing up for a space for the following year before they leave.
Traffic at any event can be a challenge, but the Colorfest organization has arranged a number of parking centers, where shuttle buses will pick up visitors and bring them to the park and back again on a regular schedule. Handicap access buses are part of the plan.
The parking areas are at Catoctin High School; Thurmont Elementary and Middle schools; NVR; Space Crafters; Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church; Deerfield United Methodist Church; and a Boy Scout area.
Robertson said this year is an improvement because everything is in one location ----the community park. Previously, participants were in more than one location.
"We reach 2 million people through advertising," Robertson said. "We get charter buses from out of state."
About 75,000 Colorfest fliers were distributed, Robertson said.
Two bands this year
While looking over the vast array of crafts, visitors can enjoy the sounds of the Catoctin Promise Band from 9 to 11 a.m. and again from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday. The Project Band will perform 9 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Both bands perform gospel music.
The Linda Elower School of Dance will offer performances both days at noon.
On Sunday, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church will offer a mass at the church, and at 8 a.m. there will be a nondenominational service at the park.
For Robertson, the best time is at 6 a.m., when she arrives to get things ready for the 9 a.m. opening.
"The park is dark, there are a few lights on," Robertson said. "They (food vendors) start to cook and by daylight the vendors are getting prepared for the day. It is so cool at that time."
A lot of early risers will head for the Thurmont Ambulance vending spot, where the crew offers apple dumplings.
"They serve them first thing in the morning, with ice cream," Robertson said. During the weekend, the ambulance tent will serve about 7,000 apple dumplings, Robertson said.
Robertson, who has a craftshow business of painted items and floral arrangements, has been working with Colorfest for 22 years. She has been president of the organization for five years and three years ago was named Volunteer of the Year by the Thurmont Lions Club for her efforts in the community. Robertson is also a member of the Thurmont Economic Development Committee
and volunteers at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church activities.
Colorfest brings in thousands of visitors who not only enjoy the crafts and food in the park, but patronize other Thurmont businesses.
The committee also uses money raised from the event to benefit the town.
The group sponsored a free movie night in the park, donated money to the Thurmont Food Bank, as well as 250 canned hams last Christmas, and Lions Club and gave four scholarships to Catoctin High School graduates in 2011. The Colorfest group also donated a new sign for the Thurmont Town Offices.
"Wear comfortable shoes, be prepared for walking among large crowds," Robertson said.