Cool weather ‘perfect’ for Baldwin City Maple Leaf Festival

Crowds packed the 58th annual Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin City on Saturday.

? As the last marchers in the hourlong Maple Leaf Festival Parade were making the north turn at Baldwin City’s Sixth and High streets at noon Saturday, Sherry Johnson was taking a final minute of rest.

“It’s coming,” she said. “Once the parade’s over, they’ll be here.”

That was experience speaking. For the past nine years, Johnson has worked the Heart of America Teen Challenge Ministry’s food booth a block to the west of the parade route in downtown Baldwin City. The more than 400 booths at the 58th annual Maple Leaf Festival opened for business at 9 a.m. but the rush started, as usual, with the end of the 11 a.m. parade.

About 20 minutes later, the post-parade rush had found its way to the Baker University women’s basketball team’s booth on High Street.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” sophomore Sydnie Hanson said as she tried to keep up with the demand for the booth’s brat and hotdog specials from customers lined across High Street. “I worked last year, but not right after the parade.”

The crowds are a big part of the draw to the festival for Wichita couple Brent and Laura Sharp. It’s the sixth year they’ve had a jewelry booth at the festival.

Flynn Keller, 6 months, of Lawrence, gets a lift to collect some leaves during the 58th annual Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin City on Oct. 17, 2015. This weekend the Maple Leaf Festival returns for its 60th event.

Sofie Numeline, 1, of Merriam, nibbles on an ear of corn Saturday during the 58th annual Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin City.

“This is one of our favorite outdoor festivals,” Brent Sharp said. “The crowds are great, and the people are great.”

With the sun breaking out at the conclusion of the parade, the temperature quickly warmed to 60 degrees after a cool night.

“My wife set up this morning with fingerless gloves,” Sharp said. “She’s still trying to get feeling in her fingers.”

The cooler weather for the 58th annual Maple Leaf Festival was in contrast to that of recent years in which afternoon highs climbed to the mid-80s. That was to the liking of Maple Leaf Festival chairman Mike Curran.

“The weather to me is perfect,” he said early Saturday afternoon. “I think people are in a better mood when it’s cooler.

“People are coming out. After the parade, the streets were packed. Everything’s going very well. I think it will be another successful festival.”

Although organizers have no means to getting a definitive attendance figure, they estimate 30,000 to 40,000 people attend the weekend event with dry weather.

Festival regular India Holtgraver, of Ottawa, said she was slow getting around before traveling to this year’s festival but not because of the cool morning. As a result, she, her sister, Candy Bollig, of Olathe, and Judy Jackson, of Ottawa, were shopping hard to make up for the lost time. One of their first stops was at the Sharps’ booth.

“We always come to this booth,” Holtgraver said. “They have such nice things.”

The three women would spend the day at the festival, eating at one of the festival’s 26 food stands.

“I don’t know where yet,” she said. “There’s always a lot of good things to eat.”

Mother and daughter Cindy and Amanda Miller of Lawrence invested a 20-minute wait before getting their turkey legs from Baker University’s Kappa Sigma booth at the corner of Seventh and High streets.

“It’s very good,” Amanda Miller said. “I got one last year, too.”

The food would energize them for more shopping in their quest for “rings,” they said.

The festival will continue until 6 p.m. today and continue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.