Autumn has set in and the city of Perham is ready to celebrate. This year's Harvest Fest is set to be the best one yet with new featured attractions including a nearby corn maze, homemade ice cream, and chocolate bars stuffed with golden tickets straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Put on by the Perham Events Committee, Roxanne Harthan is one of the chairpersons for the festival, which is set for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 5 and 6.
"All of the activities are happening on Saturday, but we say Friday too because we want people to come in early and shop Perham and get in on some of those sales everybody will be having," said Harthan, who says essentially all the businesses around the downtown area will be pulling their merchandise out onto the sidewalks both days to draw people in to shop some local sales.
This year's theme is going to be all about the "golden ticket", based on the golden tickets found wrapped into the candy bars in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The popular children's movie will be showing at the theater as well. Harthan says all seats for the matinee showing will be on sale for $3 and they will include free popcorn.
And just like Charlie in the movie, there will be some golden ticket winners around Perham, as a volunteer will be walking around handing out hundreds of free chocolate candy bars between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.--but the volunteer won't be dressed up or easy to pick out, just a random person with golden-ticket stuffed Hershey's bars, making the surprise that much more exciting.
"Eighteen of them will be winners," said Harthan, explaining that within those candy bars will be two $100 winners, two $50, four $25 and ten $10 winners...all in Perham bucks that can be used at a variety of Perham shops, stores and restaurants.
"Even if you don't win one of the prizes, you still win because you get free chocolate," laughed Harthan.
Main Street and First Avenue will be shut down around portions of the downtown, allowing festival-goers to roam freely and partake in the variety of activities and entertainment that will be on display that weekend. Fresh produce and pumpkins will dress up the area, as the farmer's market will be putting the "harvest" in "harvest fest".
First Avenue will be for the kiddos; it will feature the arts and crafts station, fire trucks people can check out, face painting, and other kid-friendly attractions.
"We'll also have one or two bouncy houses in that section, and then we're working with Kinship to do something out in that area, too," said Harthan.
Horse-drawn carriage rides will also be a feature this year, something Harthan says they're happy to bring back to the festival after a few years went by without the popular rides.
The Marshmallow Foundation will also be out with some adoptable animals - both dogs and cats - with the hopes that they will win over the hearts of people there who can give them a good forever home.
According to Harthan, several businesses are looking to spice up the festival with those fall favorites that warms the bellies and souls of community members there.
"The Goose Gang will be out doing their fall flavors of popcorn and yogurts, and we were talking about Pine Island Fish Company may be doing some little pumpkin mini muffins to give away or something like that," she said, adding that while Disgruntled Brewery can't do a beer garden within the city, there will be some beer tasting set up near there.
The Locker Plant will also be hauling out a smoker in front of Ace Hardware where they'll be smoking and serving up some fresh pulled pork.
Calla Floral Confections will be providing a fall fan favorite for the festival: dipped caramel apples.
"They'll be handing those out for free, and then we're hoping the Lions can get out there too with some mini donuts, and the Sportsman's Club may also be down there doing something on gun safety," said Harthan, adding that they also booked a chainsaw carver who will be working on a piece live for passersby to get a look at his process in action. "And then he'll have some finished pieces out there as well," said Harthan.
There will also be urban printmaking on the sidewalks, where the street grates will be painted so that kids can put t-shirts down, roll over them and instantly have themselves some "street apparel".
There will also be some live music going on to sweeten up the ambiance.
"So there's something for everyone there, not just kids and moms, but everybody," she added.
A big, new attraction to the Perham Harvest Fest this year comes in the form of pumpkin-shaped challenge - folks at Otter Berry Farms just outside of Perham have created a six-acre corn maze that those who've gotten a sneak peak of are calling "simply beautiful and amazing".
"So, we're working with them to get people out there to see that," said Harthan, who says although weather is always their number one factor in determining attendance, she says festivals like this have a way of pulling people together around town, which is what she's most looking forward to.
"I'm excited for the festival to bring lots of families and fun to the area," she said.