MONTROSE – A new festival this weekend in downtown Montrose will not only benefit area schools and provide a lot of fun for families, it will also pay for itself.
The Amy Harmsen, who owns the Canyon Gallery and is a member of the Downtown Development Authority, said downtown merchants decided to hold a new Halloween celebration this year to replace the old tradition of having a costume contest for preschoolers and having them trick-or-treat at downtown businesses.
At the new Main Street Fall Fun Festival, this Saturday, Oct. 29 from 2 to 5 p.m., kids will still get to have a costume contest and go trick-or-treating, but in a new twist, Harmsen said. Two blocks of Main Street will be closed off to traffic between Townsend and Uncompahgre avenues, where different schools will provide fun and games at about 30 booths.
Tickets to the event, with a value of four tickets per dollar, will be sold in packets of $5 and $10 at three entrances on Townsend, Uncompahgre and Cascade avenues. After the festival, schools will turn in their tickets and Harmsen will write them a check for their full combined value.
Thanks to business sponsors, the first 500 kids to arrive at the festival will receive free tickets. Those same tickets will support a new education fund that Montrose School Superintendent Mark MacHale has set up with the Montrose Community Foundation.
“I want every kid to get at least a dollar’s worth of free tickets,” she said, “and that money is going to the Montrose Community Foundation.
“Even after we give the money to the schools, we will have money left over because of sponsors,” she said. The tickets for the foundation fund will be printed in a different color so schools can tell them from the regular tickets.
“That money will go to the foundation, to that line item, and we’ll have at least $500 going into that.”
Among the bigger sponsors are Wells Fargo Bank and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, which each donated $500, she said.
The festival is also saving money by having volunteers set up barricades instead of city workers, an idea that came from City Manager Bill Bell, Harmsen said. In return, the Montrose City Council voted to waive its street closing fee for the event.
“So we’re going to give it a test run and see how it goes,” she said. “Basically the city will bring out the barricades and place them on the corners before the event, during business hours, so they don’t have to pay (employees) to come out on Saturday.”
Then on Saturday, volunteers in yellow vests will place the barricades to close the streets and then remove them when the festival is over.
There will be limited food at the event, Harmsen said, with Wells Fargo serving cotton candy, a table in front of Great Harvest Bread Company, and possibly pizza by the slice. But the main focus will be on fun, not food, as school have gotten creative with their ideas to attract kids to their booths. “We’ve got things like fishing games, face painting, ring toss, Plinko, and all sorts of cute ones like Feed the Monster where you’re tossing toilet paper through a tire, a pumpkin stem ring toss, ducky games, ping pong ball water shoot, pumpkin bowling, seed spitting contest, and a witch’s autopsy, where you go in and feel things, I guess,” she said.
The festival will also have a petting zoo, bounce house, and the North Fork Valley Ambulance barrel train to carry kids around downtown.
The costume contest will be a bit different this year, Harmsen said, with roving judges walking through the crowds to pick out 20 kids with the best costumes, and then rewarding them on the spot.
“They’ll get a goody bag with Montrose Bucks, a McDonald’s coupon, coupons for free popcorn at the movie theater, all sorts of other little stuff, and a big sash that says Best Costume,” she said.
With only two days left before the event, other schools would be rushed to participate, but they’re welcome to try, said Harmsen, who can be reached by calling 209-3578.
Next year, Harmsen hopes the festival will expand to include area youth organizations.
“The Boy Scouts were just in here and I asked them if they had anything cool, and they said, ‘Yeah, we have a dunking booth,’” she said. “So it’s a good cause and would be something for everybody.”