Front Royal festival adds Sunday benefit race

It’ll be a good year for runners attending the 45th Festival of Leaves in Front Royal, which celebrates the colorful turn of seasons and serves as the Warren Heritage Society’s annual fundraiser.

Warren Heritage Society Business Manager Susan Jeffery said that historic downtown Front Royal will be a pedestrian-only zone on Chester and East Main streets from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. She said the society takes pride in hosting the biggest festival in town with good-weather attendance of around 25,000.

A 5K race and fun walk will kick the day off at 8 a.m., starting and ending at Skyline High School. Once the festival begins, attendees can peruse a new antique car show or enjoy live entertainment from performers at the town commons gazebo.

Jeffery said that apple butter production will return to the historic attractions at the Heritage Square section of the festival at the Warren Heritage Society grounds off of Chester Street. The Ivy Lodge Museum, Stokes Country Store Museum, Warren Rifles Confederate Memorial Museum and the nearby historic homes and outbuildings will hold open houses throughout the festival for those looking for some educational interpretations.

The festival parade will start marching through town at 10 a.m. at the intersection of Stonewall Drive and Luray Avenue. Around 140 vendor tents selling food or crafts and representing local businesses or nonprofits will be offering options for attendees on any budget.

“People are in the area always just watching a budget, and there’s also people that choose to spread their dollars out,” Jeffery said. “Because there’s such a big mix, people just enjoy going from one end to the other.”

This year, the Shenandoah Leaf Peeper Half Marathon & 10K at 7:30 a.m. Sunday will provide runners with another opportunity to test their endurance and contribute to preservation of Warren County history. Registration is $75 for the 10K, $80 per person for the half marathon relay and $90 for the half marathon, with all proceeds going to the society. The fastest three male and female runners in six age categories will receive awards.

When exploring new options for fundraising, Jeffery said the Warren Heritage Society board was looking to include a new opportunity for participant fun rather than upping fees or making the festival into a ticketed event.

“A lot of people are into running those marathons these days, so they thought that’d be a great start,” she said.

Most of the proceeds from the society’s biggest festival fundraiser pay the costs of continued operation and come from fees that Jeffery said the society tries to keep low.

“We’re a small, local, private nonprofit so any funds that we tend to get are very much needed,” she said.

Find out more about the Festival of Leaves at http://tinyurl.com/jwc4clz.

IF YOU GO: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday in historic downtown Front Royal. Admission is free. Contact the society at 540-636-1446.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com