Jennifer Scalf has been involved in the Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival for 18 of its 38 years.
During that time, she's seen the addition of a farmer's market, new vendors come in as long-time participants have retired and the formalization of emergency procedures as the festival grew.
The changes continue this year, says Scalf, who is chairing this year's event - a position she's held for "five or six years, I think."
When this year's festival opens at Hier's Park on Saturday, Sept. 28, for a two-day run, visitors will see an expanded crafts area, she says. Crafters have traditionally filled the H-building at the park, and a tent has been added this year across from that building to accommodate more crafters.
"The tent is looking pretty full this year," Scalf says.
Also new this year is a jack-o-lantern contest and the presence of plein air artists on the festival grounds.
The jack-o-lantern carving contest is open to all ages, and entries must be dropped off on Friday, Sept. 27, between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the information building at Hier's Park. The jack-o-lanterns will be displayed until Sunday, Sept. 29, a 2:45 p.m., when winners are announced in the categories of spookiest, most comical and most artistic.
Scenes at this year's festival will be interpreted by area artists, who will be painting "en plein air" on Saturday, Sept. 28, the first day of the festival.
Paintings created by those artists can be purchased by the public in a silent auction to be held on the festival grounds on Sunday, Sept. 29. The arts event is held in conjunction with the LaFontaine Arts Festival.
Young visitors can also learn some old-time lessons in a pioneer schoolhouse located in the festival's Pioneer Village. The schoolhouse will be set up throughout the festival, Scalf says, complete with old-time desks.
Several new entertainers will be featured, including the Stockdale Family band, the barbershop quartet Amnesia, Common Ground, the German Duo and Shakin' Hammers String Band.
As in past years, festival visitors can chat with re-enactors living the lifestyle of Hoosier pioneers, military units as they conduct drills on foot and on horseback and traders hawking their wares.
The antiques dealers return this year, as do displays of antique engines, tractors, motorcars and bicycles and old-fashioned games for the "younguns."
A vintage base ball tournament, hosted by Huntington's Champion Hill Toppers and featuring teams from throughout the area, will feature games on both days of the festival.
Festival grounds are located at Hier's Park, 547 S. Briant St., on Huntington's south side.
Festival hours are Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. An old-time worship service is offered at 9 a.m. Sunday before the festival opens. A full program is offered, rain or shine.
A schedule of festival events is available online at www.pioneerfestival.org .
The festival is sponsored by the Huntington County Junior Historical Society, Phi Chapter of Psi Iota Xi Sorority, and Friends of the Festival. Proceeds from the festival are used to support local charities and historic preservation projects
Complete caption: Stephanie Shultz (left) plays the dulcimer during last year’s Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival as (from left) Eva Thomson, Hannah Thomson, Elizabeth Thomson and Shelby Cook (back to camera) play along by rattling dried gourds. Shultz and her musical instruments will return to this year’s festival, which will be held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29, at Hier’s Park.