Youth a major focus as Roanoke celebrates its 65th Fall Festival

Tryce Culver peeks at the crowd as he devours a miniature pie during the pie eating contest at the Roanoke Fall Festival last year. The popular contest will be held Thursday, Sept. 6, at 6 p.m.
Tryce Culver peeks at the crowd as he devours a miniature pie during the pie eating contest at the Roanoke Fall Festival last year. The popular contest will be held Thursday, Sept. 6, at 6 p.m. TAB file photo.

It will (nearly) be all about the kids at the 65th Roanoke Fall Festival when it gets under way Sept. 6 through Sept. 8. Roanoke Elementary School students were quizzed on what the theme should be, and the winner came up with a sports theme for the weekend.

Festival President Dee Simmers says the organizers wanted to bring back some of the most popular events from past years and make the festival more kid-friendly, starting Thursday night, Sept. 6, with Family Night.

“If the family comes down they get discounts on food and some of the vendors are working with us and giving a dollar off stuff,” she says.

Missing this year at Roanoke Park is the carnival, replaced by multiple inflatables for everyone with family discounts per inflatable. A free straw maze will also challenge kids. The park’s tennis court will be transformed into the Kid Zone, with games just for the youngsters and activities they can afford.

“We’re trying to make everything as cheaply as we can for the kids to do so they can interact more,” Simmers says. “I said I’m so tired of going down there to the park and seeing kids on the playground because they can’t afford the tickets for the rides, or there’s nothing for them to do.”

Two free events Thursday are a cookie decorating session and a coloring contest for kids in kindergarten through second grade, with a prize for the best-colored page.

“People will vote on it and we’ll announce the winner Saturday,” Simmers adds.

There will also be a dunk tank, with local celebrities coaxed into sitting on the hot seat.

At 6 p.m. Thursday the pie eating contest gets going under the main tent, with kid, teen and adult competitions.

Registration is required. Simmers says Alyssa Ivanson from WANE Channel 15 News will be a part of the action during the pie contest, and Icy D. Eagle from the Fort Wayne Komets will also make an appearance.

At 7 p.m. Thursday the Pet Parade gets underway at Roanoke Park’s Seminary Street entrance, with prizes awarded to the Most Creative, Owner-Pet Look Alikes, Best Dressed and Best Combo. Registration is required.

Also at 7 p.m. is the Fall Festival Follies local talent and open mic show. Registration is encouraged.

“We would like anyone who sings or tells jokes or has a talent of any kind to perform,” Simmers says. “They can come down and have however many minutes they need on the mic to sing a song or whatever, and entertain us.”

Other entertainment during the weekend includes the Wildcat Valley Cloggers, dancing on Friday, Sept. 7, at 6:30 p.m. under the main tent. The Star 69 Band, playing ’90s alternative rock will follow at 8 p.m. and The Bulldogs perform ’50s and ’60s rock and roll on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 8 p.m. under the main tent. Both concerts are free.
Friday highlights include the festival opening ceremony at 6 p.m. on Main Street downtown, followed by the Ageless Iron Tractor Parade, also heading down Main Street.

At 7 p.m. Friday the NTPA Tractor Pull revs up at the Pull Field at Roanoke Park. An admittance fee is charged.

Saturday highlights start off with free games in the Kid Zone from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the park’s tennis court.

The 65th Annual Fall Festival parade marches off at 3 p.m. on Main Street downtown. After the parade is the Balloon Animal Extravaganza under the main tent at the park, hosted by the Joy Pleasers Clown Ministry.

Another new attraction on Saturday is a diagnostic machine for automobiles, originally planned for the recent Rolling into Roanoke car show that was rained out and rescheduled. It will be located near the tractor display, Simmers says.

“It’s a semi and you put your car on it and rev it up, and it tells how many RPMs your car gives,” she explains.

At 5 p.m. the Ducky Run returns, with ducks dropped in the water at the bridge closest to the baseball diamond. The event is sponsored by the Roanoke Lions Club. Tickets can be obtained at the Roanoke Farmers Market on Saturday morning, from Lions Club members or at the festival information booth.

The festival’s annual cake – and a new addition – cookie contest and auction gets underway at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the main tent. Contest categories include Most Delicious, Best Decorated Festival Theme, Baker’s Choice General Theme and Most Delicious Cookie.

At 7 p.m. Saturday the Demolition Derby kicks into gear at the Pull Field as contestants behind the wheel of jalopies try to put their opponents out of commission.

Throughout the festival visitors can stroll through a new Craft Alley for everything from handicrafts to commercial vendors. They will also find no less than 11 vendors on Food Alley, including hot dogs sold by the Roanoke Volunteer Fire Department, Simmer says.

For event entry forms and more information, visit the website Updated information can also be found on the festival’s Facebook page, RoanokeFallFestival.