Baldwin Nathan Jamison hadn't been back to the Maple Leaf Festival since he graduated from Baldwin High School in 2000.
But Saturday, Jamison, a firefighter with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical, returned to the festival and took along his girlfriend, Emily Sorenson, of Lincoln, Neb.
"It's always nice to see Baldwin in the fall, with the trees and the leaves changing," Jamison said.
Sorenson, who was seeing the festival for the first time, liked what she saw.
"I'm really impressed with how many people are here," Sorenson said as the couple waited for one of the trams to take them to another area of the festival, which was sprawled across the downtown area.
The festival kicked off Saturday morning with its traditional parade. But the main attraction for the thousands of people who swarmed into town was the more than 300 arts-and-crafts booths, including the limestone carving operation that George and Nancy Welling set up on the back of a trailer they towed with their van from their home in Paradise, a small town in central Kansas north of Russell.
George Welling takes old limestone fence posts, cuts them into smaller blocks and carves and paints just about anything on them: names, initials, football team symbols, and animals.
George Welling didn't know what carving he got the most requests for and referred the question to his wife. "She takes the orders and I just make 'em," he said.
Actually most of the sales are limestone bookends, Nancy Welling said. She showed a picture of Gerald Ford receiving a pair of limestone barbed-wire bookends her husband once made and which were given to the former president by a veterans organization.
Nearby, Mary Evans sat answering questions about a variety of handmade wooden benches, flower containers and birdhouses with old license plates for the roofs. The items were made by her 72-year-old father, Mike Zenner, of Benton, which is near El Dorado.
"My dad tears down old barns and saves the wood," Evans said. "He saves a dollar and uses the wood."
An estimated 30,000 to 40,000 people annually attend the festival, organizers said. The festival continues today.