Crowds gather in Front Royal for Festival of Leaves

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL — The 44th Annual Festival of Leaves drew thousands of people to downtown Front Royal on Saturday for music, food and crafts.

Rain held off in the morning as the festival parade traveled downtown from Warren County Middle School. Families, residents and visitors lined Royal Avenue to watch the parade. Local organizations, school groups, current elected officials and at least one candidate running for Town Council participated in the parade.

Most of the activities took place on Main and Chester streets, with local vendors selling arts and crafts, food and other merchandise. Vendors also included area nonprofit groups and other businesses.

Among the artisans, Stephen Pilon, owner of Padua Crafts, spent time caning chairs. Pilon, who also works as a librarian at Christendom College, said he started caning chairs about 10 years ago as a hobby and to earn extra money. A brother-in-law also caned chairs and inspired him to start, Pilon said.

Crowds also gathered around the gazebo to watch live music and dance performances.

The festival draws about 25,000 people each year, according to Susan Jeffery, with the Warren Heritage Society. Jeffery and Frances Woodward, with the Warren Rifles Confederate Museum, said that it looked like the festival had a good turnout despite the weather.

“It’s a wonderful thing for the community,” Woodward said.

Jeffery has worked as the coordinator of the festival for about 10 years. The festival serves as the Warren Heritage Society’s annual fundraiser. This year the festival drew 140 vendors.

“We try to put on a fun day for everybody,” Jeffery said. “We’ve never charged admission, so we always looked forward to a great crowd and a fun-filled day.”

During the day the heritage society hosted demonstrations and living history interpretations, tours of the historic Belle Boyd Cottage and Balthis House and apple-butter making.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com