Crowds flocked to Chester Bowl Fall Fest on Sunday after the annual celebration was postponed a day due to thunderstorms.
“So far, so good,” Chester Bowl Improvement Club Program and Operations Manager Sam Luoma said Sunday morning. “I think we’re on track to have about the same attendance as we would have expected.”
On average, the festival brings up to 10,000 people to the park each year to celebrate the beginning of the fall season and help raise money for the Improvement Club’s scholarships. The money goes toward program fees for families during the winter and helping kids go to summer camp, according to Luoma.
While the event is free, a $5 donation per person or $10 donation per family is encouraged. "Today we raised $10,785 through the generosity of our visitors, which was a record by nearly $3,000," said Dave Schaeffer, executive director of the Improvement Club, in a statement to the News Tribune Sunday night. "All of this money will go to support families that would otherwise not have been able to support our ski and snowboard program."
Last year, they raised about $8,000 in donations, making up a portion of just under $28,000 in scholarships.
To help with the large crowd, there were about 140 vendors present on Sunday, selling locally and handmade items and fresh food, plus a lineup of music and family-friendly activities including a pumpkin-shaped bounce house and pony rides.
One of the vendors selling flowers and cooked corn on the cob, Duluth Flower Farm, has been part of Fall Fest ever since its start in 1984.
“My family has done this booth and has done the cooked corn every year,” Derek Hoffbauer with Duluth Flower Farm said. “My great grandma is here and then her great grandchildren are here too, so it’s really cool to get the whole family together.”
Along with bringing the family together, this festival is important for them every day of their growing season.
“It’s a great event for us,” Hoffbauer said. “We plan for it when we’re doing our gardens, and we plan for the sweet corn and the flowers to be peak and ready for Fall Fest. It’s the start of our end season. We build up to this and then afterwards we clean up our fields for the year.”
Another family-run business that’s become a festival staple is Bayfield-based Hauser’s Superior View Farm, which has been here for at least 22 years.
Representing the business at the festival was husband and wife Jim Hauser Jr. and Ellen Hauser. and their daughter, Alyssa Hauser.
“The family started this in 1908 and my husband is the fourth generation,” Ellen said.
Alyssa’s favorite part of growing up with the festival? Seeing the people.
“It’s fun to see people come back year after year,” Alyssa said. “The same people will come here every single year and tell us how getting apples from us has become a tradition.”
Not only do their regular customers have an affinity for their apples, so does Lions Club International.
With their booth right next to the Hausers, the Lions buy bushels of apples and sell them for their caramel apple fundraiser.
“It’s our second biggest fundraiser,” Lions Club member Pat Swenson said. “It’s nice getting our apples fresh.”
The people going to the festival also like the food.
This September marked Duluthian Rod O’Bey’s second year of coming to the event with his wife Peggy.
“The food and the animals are my favorite,” O’Bey said. “I’m an animal lover. We’ll sure be back.”
More information on Chester Bowl’s Improvement Club and their events can be found at chesterbowl.org.