The return of an Eau Claire tradition

International Fall Festival brings thousands to Barstow

South Barstow Street was filled with colorful merchants, the aroma of freshly cooked food and a large crowd of people at the International Fall Festival last Saturday.

This year marked the 37th installment of the annual event that brings thousands of people downtown for shopping, eating and the All-American City Celebration Parade.

Salina Heller works for Downtown Eau Claire Inc., or DECI, and was one of the chief coordinators of this year’s festival. She said the International Fall Festival has become somewhat of a yearly ritual for Eau Claire.

“It’s really a community tradition,” Heller said. “People just know that this is what they do this third Saturday of September.”

There were street performers, pony rides, a band and a bounce house at the festival, all under the embrace of a warm and sunny September day. Just under 100 vendors signed up for this year’s event, to sell everything from jewelry to fry bread tacos.

Due to construction during the summer and early fall of 2013, the International Fall Festival was skipped for a year. Instead, DECI decided to host a smaller event called Celebrate Eau Claire, which was just open to local businesses.The post-construction festival showcased many of the new amenities such as benches and a sound system used to announce for the parade.

At 3 p.m. the All-American City Celebration Parade shifted into gear with Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer leading the way in a 1986 Pontiac Trans Am squad car. This year’s parade was the biggest one ever held during International Fall Festival.

Bringing up the rear of the parade was the Blugold Marching Band. Marching band member Kara Metzger marched in her third International Fall Festival and said she enjoyed the energy she felt from the crowd.

“It’s really nice to see that everyone comes out to watch us and is very enthusiastic towards what we put out,” Metzger said.

Another important aspect of the festival is the exposure it provides for downtown businesses.

For her first year in the International Fall Festival, Fun Dye Factory owner Bobbi Potter had a booth and a spot in the parade for her business. She said this event was a great opportunity for her business to promote itself.

“Just having the availability for people to see my name, see my store name and see where that store is, it’s fantastic,” Potter said.

Heller said this event showcases all the businesses, organizations and places that make downtown Eau Claire the place it is.

“It’s really all these small business owners and small businesses that make a community unique,” Heller said.