The Labor Day weekend may mark the end of summer, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not time for one more party in paradise. From Sept. 1 to Sept. 3, the downtown area was transformed into a tropical destination for the 50th annual Frankfort Fall Fest, which attracts more than 250,000 people to the Southland each year. 

To celebrate the event’s golden anniversary, the “escape” was aptly named for the many who donned a lei and flipflops but also for the departure from the usual bustle of town that comes with a weekend getaway. Topped with a touch of tropical weather, the three day fest featured more than 300 artisans from across the nation selling everything from jewelry, pottery and fine art to clothing, pet accessories and craft soap. 

While artisans are the big attraction to the festival, their unique display of art just scraped the surface of what the fest has to offer. Between the live music, food, carnival rides and this year’s newest addition, “The Garden,” which offered adult beverages for purchase, there was something for everyone. 

“We’re having a really great time. We’ve turned downtown into a little tropical paradise,” said Bob Peters,

chair of the 2018 Fall Festival. “It was my vision for the 50th anniversary to escape to a little slice of paradise. We’ve never had that theme before, and it’s making for an awesome time. I even ordered the tropical weather.”

 To plan for a festival of this caliber, a year-round effort is required. As soon as this year’s festival is all packed up, the planning for next year’s fest will begin. “We started planning [this year’s event] beginning last September. We don’t miss a beat. Come Tuesday, we’ll regroup and ask ourselves what we did right, what we did wrong and how can we improve to make those changes happen for next year. It’s a nonstop effort,” Peters said.

 That meticulous planning is what attracts so many vendors from across the nation to the Frankfort Fall Fest, some traveling thousands of miles just to participate. The 11-hour drive from Stroudsburg, Penn., was a familiar trip for Ryan Oberdick, as this was his second year bringing his handcrafted “Whisker Biscuits” dog treats to the Fall Fest. While Whisker Biscuits travels to more than 100 festivals and

fairs nationally, the Frankfort Fall Fest is a favorite for Oberdick.

 “You meet some really great people here. It’s a well attended event, and it's organized extremely well. You know everybody from the top down to the bottom here really puts a lot of time and effort into the event,” Oberdick said.

“Most events like this are put on by professional companies. We have over 150 volunteers that dedicate their time over the weekend, with many of them returning year after year,” said Peters. “We’re truly a Fall fest family, and that’s something to be proud of.”

One of those volunteers was Tom Senffner of Joliet. For the last 14 years, Senffner has spent his Labor Day weekend assisting Frankfort Boy Scout Troop #270, helping to shuttle attendees too and from the festival. “I guess I like driving the bus in circles,” Senffner laughed. “There’s always a lot of friendly people I get to talk to. Everyone seems pretty happy.”

 For Katie Newell, a jewelry maker originally from Frankfort, the Fall Fest is her chance to return home to friends and family while displaying her passion to her craft. This was only Newell’s second year participating in the event as an artisan, but the Fall Fest is a longtime tradition for her.

“I'm so glad I get to come back and visit to do this show. It’s so much fun being out here. love being able to see everyone that I went to school with a long time ago, and show those around me what I do,” Newell said.