Gorgeous fall weather brought the usual throng of thousands to the 51st annual Maple Leaf Festival on Saturday for the parade, crafts booths and, of course, food.
First-time festival attendee Amy Bures of Shawnee loved the experience as she left on the shuttle bus to the parking area toting a huge container of purple mums. But it was the weather she enjoyed most, with blue skies and temperatures in the mid-60s.
"That was one of the best things about it: the weather," Bures said. "I liked the festival. It was very nice. We came for whatever - food and whatever we could find."
Susie Ross of Mayetta agreed.
"That's why we basically came. The weather was good," Ross said.
Maple Leaf committee members, who work year-round to make the fall classic happen, were thrilled to see the crowds yet again. About 30,000 people usually turn out for the three-day event. It looks like this year will be no exception.
"I think we've got the same crowd," said committee member Diane Wagner. "I think it got a late start with the fog this morning on the way from the Kansas City area."
It may have been a later start, but by the time the grand parade - the signature event of Saturday - started at 11 a.m., the usual thousands of people were surrounding the parade route or taking advantage of the smaller crowds around the booths.
The parade lasted under an hour for a change, which was a surprise to many.
"I would have thought it would have been longer with all the political stuff," said Amy Gill of Baldwin City. "I said, 'Here comes the horses. Is it done?' They usually come last so they can clean up the poop."
The other staples of the event - food and craft booths - were busy throughout the day, and most were reporting good sales numbers.
"The birdhouse guy's almost sold out, the cookie guy's almost out," said Donna Curran, chairwoman of the festival committee. "The food booth lines have been long. Some of the food booths have had to go get more food.
"It's good," Curran said. "I think it's as big as ever, but it's just a steady flow."
Ralph DeZago of Herington has had a jewelry booth at the festival for three years. His sales have been down, but not much.
"I think a little less," DeZago said. "It's not like last year, but it's not like two years ago when it rained. The weather is nice. The economy isn't. What I'm watching is the people go by with bags that have bought things. It's not as many.
"But there's another side," he said. "The cost of materials I use are down. I'll come back on this kind of result. I was happy with it. I've got no complaints. It's hard to say what will happen tomorrow."
The festival runs all day today. In addition to the booths and the food, there's an added attraction this year with two white tigers on display by Zoo Dynamics of Dallas.
"There was a 70-year-old woman who wanted to see the white tigers," Curran said. "She'd always wanted to see one. She cried."