The red and yellow glow of autumn will lead the way to Baldwin this weekend for the 35th annual Maple Leaf Festival.
The festival on Saturday and Sunday will showcase the history, culture and skills of the area.
"It all started in 1957 out of the Baldwin Commercial Club," said Jane Richards, vice chair of publicity for the festival. "They wanted to do something to celebrate the beauty of the maple trees. So that year they killed a buffalo, built a big pit and barbecued it."
Since those days, when one animal could feed everyone with some left over, the festival has grown to include a parade, a Maple Leaf Miss and entertainment from all over the state.
"Our biggest attraction is the parade," Richards said. "As far as I know there are 20 bands and more than a dozen floats lined up to participate."
THIS YEAR'S parade grand marshals are Merlin Ford, a former Baldwin mayor, and Lenore Frye, a former postmaster and longtime resident of the area, Richards said.
The parade theme, "500 Years of Discovery 1492-1992," allows a lot of leeway for float builders, Richards said.
Following a children's parade at 10:45 a.m. the main parade will begin at 11 a.m. and follow a route through downtown Baldwin. It will travel west on High Street from Second Street, and then north on Eighth Street to Chapel. Prizes will be awarded to the top floats with the best theme depiction.
Bands scheduled to march in the parade include several local high schools and the 35th Division National Guard Band from Olathe. The 35th will also play in concert at 2 p.m. Saturday at Eighth and Grove.
ALSO LINING the streets and filling the junior high school gymnasium will be arts and crafts booths of all kinds, ranging from painting to woodcarving.
"The streets will be lined with booths through the intersection of Main Street, down two blocks each way all the way out to the grade school," Richards said. "I know there's more than 200 booths. People return over and over again. They sign up for next year's booth at the festival the year before."
Richards said this year there will be a lot of jewelry available for sale as well as a lot of woven sweaters and other items.
"We've been really lucky with the weather during the festival," Richards said. "I think we've only had one rain in all those years. Lots of cooler weather, but very little rain."
Food also is a popular item at the festival and includes something for even the most finicky eaters.
"THE ENUNCIATION Catholic Church does the main meal downtown," Richards said. "Its called `The Cookout' and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on both days they'll serve all kinds of burgers, baked potatoes and hot dogs."
Other local groups will sponsor food booths throughout the festival.
"There's something for everyone this year," Richards said. "Even those people who just like to mill around."
Other activities include:
Storyteller and minstrel David Holt will perform at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Rice Auditorium on the Baker University campus. Holt offers concerts of old-time music and stories through tales, ballads and tunes which are performed on the banjo, hammered dulcimer, auto harp, guitar, harmonica, spoons and jaw harp. Tickets are available at the auditorium.
The Quilt Show, the oldest annual show in Kansas, will celebrate its 20th year of festival participation with a display of vintage quilts at the grade school.
"I don't know how many quilts there are, but there are strings of them," Richards said. "Mrs. Joe Hatcher will be the guest speaker at the quilters meeting at 8 a.m. on Sunday. She does beautiful work. She used to be a teacher, but now she devotes all of her time to quilting. I'm not a quilter but I'm going just to see her stuff."
The Maple Leaf Melodrama, an old-fashioned comedy performance featuring dastardly villians, steely heroes and damsels in distress, will run performances throughout Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the Lumberyard Auditorium, Eighth and High streets.
A large tent set up behind the post office downtown will showcase more than 20 area bands.
Airplane rides will allow festival visitors to check out the fall foliage and festival from the air. Train rides and bus tours will give visitors a chance to check out local historic sites, from the Santa Fe Trail wagon tracks to the Museum of Grassroots Art.
For the sports-minded, there's a tennis tournament and a 10K run.