Some years, volunteers huddled beneath heaters to keep warm, but shorts and T-shirts were the preferred attire Saturday for Family Fall Fest and Oktoberfest in downtown Mount Prospect.
Unseasonably high temperatures brought families out en masse for the return of the annual event, organized by the Mount Prospect Downtown Merchants Association.
The event centered on the village green at Emerson Street and Busse Avenue was canceled last year due to the pandemic. This year, the two-day celebration roared back with Friday thought to be the best attended in its 13-year run.
A registration-only special needs hour started at noon, and a bevy of family-oriented activities continued until 4 p.m. Attractions included free candy, face-painting, pony and hay rides, a balloon artist, a rather tall scarecrow on stilts and Scottie the Parrot, a blue and gold macaw that’s a perennial favorite for a photo opportunity.
A more adult celebration featuring live music and authentic German food and beverages followed until 11 p.m.
“It’s beautiful to be back, especially since the weather worked out great,” said Erich Held, co-chair. “It’s just nice seeing people again.”
There were a few adjustments. Bouncy houses, for example, were not set up. And the big tent, which normally is completely closed and heated became an open-air venue as the big flaps were opened. The combined family fall fest and Oktoberfest are the chief fundraiser for the downtown association so it can hold other events, such as pictures with Santa and this year, the return of a kids New Year’s Eve party. “Kid-friendly, kid-oriented — if the kids don’t find something they like, it’s their fault,” joked Lisanne Haney, a Mount Prospect resident who accompanied her daughter, Kristy, and grandkids Jameson and Sloan from Elmhurst.
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“The kids love it. It’s a great community thing,” agreed Heather Topolewski, who came from Roselle with her children and a niece.
Chicago resident Susan Hooper, whose day job is as a social worker, has a part-time gig and hobby playing a friendly scarecrow on stilts.
“This is great, great fun,” she said. “A wonderful festival for families to access for free.”
Arlington Heights mom Colleen Bolotin brought her son, Eli, 3, and daughter, Juliette, 7, for the activities.
“As a mom, you’re always looking for something to do with the kids,” she said. “It’s beautiful today.”