STORY BY ELISE NIKOLIC
“Look, it’s George the Chili King!” A little girl sitting at the parade calls out. She’s right: George the Chili King is rolling down the street in a convertible, waving at kids and throwing out candy.
On Saturday, hundreds of families crowded the Beaverdale streets to enjoy situations just like this: kids throwing candy, local politicians shaking hands and hotdogs cooked on moving grills.
That is what being at the Beaverdale Fall Festival is like. Children grow up going to the festival and then bring their children to the festival. The event has been going on for more than 20 years, and the excitement grows each year. Jean Swanson, a member of the Beaverdale Fall Festival Committee, told me that an estimated 35,000 people attend the parade. She guessed that around 50,000 kids and adults enjoy various events over the entire weekend.
“I just like the feeling of watching everyone have good time,” Swanson said.
Swanson’s husband was on the council for many years, but when he passed away, his friends invited her to take over many of the duties. From there, it was a quick transition to her being on the council.
“I’m proud to be a part of it,” Swanson said.
Swanson looks forward to watching the Beaverdale Fall Festival grow and change.
Every year they add new events, Swanson explained. This year, they added a game street for kids with pictures with Cinderella in addition to the rides, face painting, booths and music they had in past years.
Andy Boyce of The Wooden Kitchen is selling his products at a booth this weekend. He worked in construction for a long time, but decided to pursue a new path.
This new direction includes cutting boards, pizza paddles, tables and benches. His wife, Kristina Boyce, makes rope baskets and totes, and they sell their products together. When selling at the farmers market, they were approached about having a booth at the festival. Now that people are starting to think about Christmas presents, Boyce says business is starting to pick up. He believes people like buying his products because they are of higher quality that customers can pass on to grandchildren and turn into an heirloom.
When walking into the fall festival for the first time, it’s obvious to see why many people adore it. People of all generations are running from booth to booth and cheering at the parade floats. A dinosaur in a Bernie Sanders shirt is probably not a tradition, but kids and parents flock to him anyway. Beaverdale seems in its element at this festival.
A twelve-year-old bulldog named Brewster, known by his parents as “The Beaverdale Bulldog”, was also present for the festivities. His parents were hoping he would make it to Beaverdale Fall Festival this year. Brewster exemplifies how much love this event carries in the Beaverdale community.
Des Moines natives at Drake are also fond of the festival.
“I love Beaverdale,” said first-year Juna Schmitt, who has attended the festival for years. “I go every year, and this is the first year I’m missing it.”
This event is a labor of love for the planners and 150 volunteers, and it shows. Year after year, people return to play games, shop locally, watch the massive parade and contribute to the legend that is the Beaverdale Fall Festival.