Beaver Dam Fall Fest on a ‘pumpkin’ roll: Autumn event growing with community buy-in
With many businesses either open or nearing completion, and new interest in the heart of the city, Downtown Beaver Dam Inc. is stepping up its efforts to connect with the greater community.
Their latest effort is the Fall Downtown Fest, set for Oct. 27, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
DBDI’s goal is “to promote downtown as a great place to live, work and play.” The absence of a fall event however, led DBDI board member Tekla Wlodarczyk-Nunez to propose a new attraction.
“Our fundraising committee decided we needed to do something to keep downtown moving forward, but that whatever we did needed to be manageable for the three members who are doing the work,” Nunez said. “We know from our River Markets that people like coming downtown and doing things, but we also know that getting volunteers to man the events is a challenge. We decided to do a small event — something we could easily manage.”
The first step was changing the committee’s name to “Fun Raising Committee” to hold events that may or may not raise cash.
“We don’t always have to include the ‘D’ for dollars,” Nunez said. “Yes, we are still raising money for DBDI — sometimes — but our main idea is to bring focus and life to downtown. Our goal for this festival is to celebrate downtown.”
The first idea was a pumpkin decorating contest, with participants bringing their creations to be displayed in downtown shop windows. Pumpkins will be judged in five age groups at the following locations: Grades 4K through two, Bullfrogs & Butterflies, 106 Front St.; grades three through five, Modern Woodmen, 118 Front St.; grades five through eight, Design Plus, 139 Front St.; grades nine through 12, B&D Music Center, 127 Front St.; and adults, Riverfront Winery, 227 Front St.
“We want people to be creative, so the more interesting and creative the designs the better,” Nunez said. “That said, there are rules that everyone must follow, and those are posted on our website” (bddowntown.com).
Free pumpkin carving kits are available at Habitat for Humanity Restore, 1022 Madison St. Those who want one must identify themselves as pumpkin contest participants to receive them.
Pumpkins may be delivered for display Oct. 24-26, between 1-5 p.m. The pumpkins in five age groups are then judged by popular vote on Oct. 27 between 9 a.m. and noon. First and second prizes will be awarded in each age group. First-prize baskets will be valued at approximately $100 and will be family-friendly. Second-prize baskets will be smaller, but still family-friendly. Winners will be announced at American Bank at 12:30 p.m. Contestants can then pick up their pumpkins and take them home immediately after winners are announced. Those left behind will be donated for a Fall Downtown Fest display.
The pumpkin event was on a roll and quickly grew to include other ideas.
American Bank, 115 Front St., will offer breakfast items for sale to benefit Bridges of Dodge County, “a sober living home.”
Children’s activities will be offered at several locations, including The Watermark, 209 S. Center St.; Beaver Dam Community Library, 311 N. Spring St.; Rogers Cinema, 236 Front St.: and Annabelle’s Ice Cream Parlor (featuring pumpkin pie ice cream), 301 Front St. There will be a box tunnel at McKinstry’s Home Furnishings, 131 Front St.; and a child ID table at Modern Woodmen, 118 Front St.
Rogers Cinema will show scary movies. Shows, times and costs are available at rogerscinema.com.
Another big event will be a scavenger hunt inside downtown area business places. Answers to questions are in plain sight, and hunters will be challenged to answer the questions posed.
“The goal is to help people become aware of downtown,” Nunez said. “There’s a lot of retail here. There’s a lot of service here. There are a lot of things that are new and exciting. This scavenger hunt will let them know how much there is downtown, and how it has successfully evolved. There are a lot of the old businesses here, but a lot of new things are growing here as well.”
Scavenger hunt businesses may also have in-store promotions, including prize drawings and/or snacks. Whatever is offered is determined by each business.
A medallion hunt also will be held. The medallion, a drink coaster with a fall fest design, will be hidden in a downtown business window. Clues as to its hiding place are posted on Facebook daily. A prize will be awarded to whoever finds it first.
“You have to be a puzzle solver if you’re going to find it early,” Nunez said. “The clues get more and more specific as they move along.”
Guided mural walks will also be held. They will begin at American Bank at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Roger Noll’s calliope will be at Mural Corner Park, at the northeast corner of Front and Center streets. Picnic tables will be placed throughout downtown, so guests may eat and relax in the hopeful warmth of an autumn day.
“There are other things still in the works at other locations, and they will be announced as they develop,” Nunez said. “Everything will be held rain, shine, whatever. Everything can be moved inside if that’s what needs to be done, so come on down.
“People are already talking about what they’re going to do next year, so we’re off to a good start. The first festival hasn’t even occurred yet, but we know already that this will be an annual event.”