Southsider Voice correspondent
Main Street in Beech Grove from Second to Sixth avenues will teem with carnival rides, food vendors, game booths and other attractions as the city’s annual Fall Festival runs through Saturday.
In addition, a parade from 17th to Eighth avenues along Main gets under way at noon Saturday, with the Beech Party concert starting at 4 p.m. at Eighth and Main. According to Tim Latimer of the Beech Grove Promoters Club, the concert will feature several local big-name bands. The festival runs from 6-11 p.m. through Friday.
“The stage at Fourth and Main is reserved for local groups such as garage bands, DJs and karaoke,” said Latimer. “Entertainment at this stage is ongoing throughout the event, and our parade attracts people from all over the Southside.”
Mayor Dennis Buckley, who noted that the festival celebrated its 50th anniversary a few years ago, plans on attending the parade and the festival. “I like the parade and talking to people,” he said. “They have a Beech Party with live music, and I've been a fan of the festival for a long time.”
Bill Ciriello was one of the 20 men who founded the club in 1953. The organization, which hosted many fundraisers, was known as the Exchange Club before adopting its present name in 1957.
The city celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1956, “and we started the Fall Festival the following year,” said Ciriello. “It was like it is today: carnival rides, food booths and the parade.”
Ciriello once served as festival chairman, a role his son John Ciriello currently fills. John is on the board of control for the club and is a member of the Beech Grove Eagles and American Legion.
The first festival was such a success that the next year the Beech Grove Promoters Club continued the event and named it the Beech Grove Fall Foliage Festival,” said John. “Over the years the name was shortened to the Beech Grove Fall Festival.”
According to Latimer, Poor Jacks Amusements has been the midway provider for many years, and several nonprofit groups have participated in the event for years.
With planning beginning in the spring, Bill said the timing and the weather worked out for having a festival in September. He is no longer involved with the event because ... “the younger guys are taking over and I've done it all,” but he still attends every year.
Since the festival was first launched, some of the key participants have been civic organizations and nonprofit groups such as the Little League, churches and Boy and Girl Scouts.
“Our main goal is for them to raise funds for themselves as we do for ourselves,” said John. “Of course, without the total support we have received from the Police Department, Fire Department, City Council, Street and Sanitation departments, the whole thing could never come together.”
Buckley admitted that he does not play a large role in the festival; the city mainly approves the event and provides fire and police protection, as well as officers to ensure cleanliness. Roads were closed last night.
Latimer mentioned that a few key individuals and organizations help make the festival possible.
“Although the revisions to Main Street were new last year, Derek Blice has done a great job fitting in new vendors, said Latimer. “Clearly, Derek has the hardest job ... organizing booth space for the vendors. Each night, and during the day on Saturday, club members are needed to walk up and down Main Street to attend to the various needs of the vendors.”
Buckley noted that businesses on Main Street would be open during the festival. Vendors are monitored so that area shops do not fall victim to unfair competition.
“We want to make sure the festival is a 100 percent family-friendly atmosphere,” said John. “Over the years there has been some conflict and negotiating. The Promoters Club main goal is not to cause any business in the festival area to lose revenue because of it.”
John said the club has “the best cooperation and support of business owners in many years.” The club encourages Main Street’s businesses to be open.
“There is a long-standing pride in the Promoters Club,” said John. “We have worked hard over the years to support and promote the city, schools and other organizations. We hope (our patrons) will agree with that and come down to the festival and enjoy themselves and support us at the same time.”
“During the festival I walk the streets and visit with people I see once a year,” said Bill. “I see the excitement in the little kids’ eyes. I hope the Fall Festival continues for years to come.”