Denison’s Main Street played host Saturday to crowds of over 25,000 visitors as the Denison Area Chamber of Commerce held its annual Fall Fest. The annual event, now in its 30th year, featured live music, street vendors and other activities for the entire family.
Chamber Events Director Shelly Kisel said she was both happy and surprised to see the large crowds at the event early in the day.
“We had 25,000 people here last year and we were busy busy by 9:30 this morning,” she said. “The crowds just keep getting thicker.”
The event was kicked off early Saturday morning with the annual community pancake breakfast, held by the Denison Ministerial Alliance at Heritage Park. Johnnie Smith, representing Parkside Baptist Church, said the alliance and area churches have used the event for the past 10 years to raise funds for charitable causes.
In previous years, Smith said, the event has been used to help support Helping Hands, the Grayson County Shelter and the Ministerial Alliance’s prescription program. Last year, the alliance was able to provide $2,000 to each of the causes through the event, he said.
“The scripture tells us we need to help each other, and there is a lot of need,” he said.
This year, supply donations were not as high as previous years, and costs for the breakfast went up. However, Smith said he was hopeful that the event could still raise enough funds to help good causes in the community.
For this year’s festival, Kisel said organizers put a focus on expanding the number of vendors and promotions, with radio and other advertising reaching out beyond the immediate Texoma region. This year’s festival featured more than 210 vendors, offering a variety of goods and services, and 19 food vendors, she said.
“We have people here who are hearing about it from our vendors and then telling their customers,” she said, referring to customers and new vendors alike. “These are people who are coming from out of state just for this festival. When you have more vendors, you have more people.”
Despite the focus on outside vendors, Kisel said the festival has also proven to be a boon for local shops in downtown. Even if a shop doesn’t make an initial sale, the exposure is still vital and important, she said.
“If they aren’t buying today, they will come back because they’ve been exposed to a new store,” she said.
Derrick Roberts, owner of Pop Around the Corner, said he has popped more than 500 pounds of popcorn and brought in additional help in anticipation of Saturday’s festival.
“This is a pretty good amount of business for us,” he said. “I’ve popped more corn today than I have in a while.”
This is the second festival since the business opened its doors, Roberts said. Last year’s Fall Fest served as an unofficial start of the holiday season, he said. After the exposure the business received at the festival, Roberts said business continued to be strong through Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Among the other attractions at this year’s festival was a car show, featuring more than 150 classic and modern performance vehicles. Tom Smith said he was attending the car show for the first time in order to show off the 1937 Buick he is working to restore.
“I’ve been working on it for four years, and I finally got to the point I can drive it with some reliability,” he said.
Beyond the car show itself, Smith said he felt Saturday’s festival was a good thing for the city, as it brought attention and visitors to the city’s core. For years, smaller retailers, like those in downtown, have been neglected due to bigger stores like Walmart, he said.
“I think there is a significant monetary influx, but even more importantly it brings people to our downtown,” he said.