Baldwin — Archer Carlson wouldn't miss this city's 43rd annual Maple Leaf Festival for anything.
A 57-year member of the Lloyd Beaton American Legion Post 228, Carlson is among the veterans chosen as grand marshals for the festival's parade, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday. This year's theme is "Hometown Heroes."
Carlson, who served in World War II in the Pacific Theater, said he enjoys attending the festival every year and wants other people to enjoy the city's beauty, too.
"It promotes the city of Baldwin," he said. "That's the primary purpose of the festival and always has been. We want to show that the community is progressing forward."
His wife, Ethel May, also plays a role in the festival. She helps make fruit pies for the Legionnaire Auxiliary's fund-raiser.
The parade is one of the many favorite activities for people attending the festival, said Star Novak, the event's publicity chair.
"It's a nice honor for the veterans," she said. "I'm sure a lot of people will attend the parade, especially since it's an election year."
Attendance at the festival varies and depends a little on the weather, Novak said. The forecast for this weekend calls for partly cloudy skies with high temperatures in the 70s.
Archer Carlson, one of grand marshals for the Maple Leaf Festival parade
The festival has attracted as many as 30,000 to this town of 3,000 located 15 miles south of Lawrence. Last year, she said, people attended the festival from at least 20 states and several foreign countries, including Scotland, England, Thailand and Canada.
Novak said many people seem to hear about the festival by word of mouth and then come to see what it's all about.
"People like the small-town charm. It's something different than their hometown," she said. "People who lived here a long time ago also return. It just amazes me."
The Maple Leaf Festival, started in 1957, always takes place on the third weekend of October when the town's fall foliage is blazing with color.
Novak said she loves to hear the leaves crunch underneath her feet and smell the caramel apples and kettle corn sold at the festival.
"I just love the festival and this time of the year. It bombards all my senses," she said.
Another attraction is the approximately 250 arts and craft booths that sell everything from ceramics and pottery to baskets, candles and Christmas ornaments. Novak said all the booth space has been sold and there is typically a waiting list.
"It's a pretty big deal as far as crafters go," she said. "We have some people who ask for the same space year after year."
Last year, $8,000 earned at booths was donated to various civic groups, the Girl Scouts and softball teams.
"We're pretty proud of the fact that we can help out the kids," Novak said.