‘There’s No Place Like Home’ theme for 64th Fall Festival

Ageless Iron Tractor Club member Sam Elliot lets his dog hitch a ride on his 1964 International tractor as he makes his way down Main Street in Roanoke during last year’s Roanoke Fall Festival tractor parade. This year’s festival will run from Thursday, Sept. 7, to Saturday, Sept. 9.
Ageless Iron Tractor Club member Sam Elliot lets his dog hitch a ride on his 1964 International tractor as he makes his way down Main Street in Roanoke during last year’s Roanoke Fall Festival tractor parade. This year’s festival will run from Thursday, Sept. 7, to Saturday, Sept. 9. TAB file photo.

At this year’s Roanoke Fall Festival, the bridges leading into Roanoke Park will be golden and the festival’s main tent will be green.

They’re references to the Yellow Brick Road and the Emerald City from “The Wizard of Oz.” The beloved movie inspired the theme of this year’s festival, which is “There’s No Place Like Home.”

The theme aligns with festival spokesman Dave Tucker’s view of the annual event, now in its 64th year.

“It brings families back together again,” he says. “People come from out of town to come back home for the festival.”

References to “The Wizard of Oz” will continue inside the main tent, located in the park, which will be decorated with items such as witches’ hats and scarecrows. Floats in the festival’s parade will pay tribute to the movie, as will confections in the event’s cake competition.

The festival will run from Thursday, Sept. 7, to Saturday, Sept. 9. Tucker notes that the planning committee’s top priority for the three-day event was to make it affordable for attendees, specifically families.

“We have free kids’ games, free concerts, free activities,” he states. “Try to keep our food vendors competitive, price-wise, so you’re not paying $8 for a hamburger. So, a family of four can go down there and listen to a band, get a hot dog and a Coke for less than $20.

“That’s my goal, is to make it totally family-friendly.”

Attractions that attendees can anticipate on seeing all three days of the festival include the carnival rides and games, food alley and the Ageless Iron of Roanoke antique tractor display.

Also, each day of the festival will end with a free concert in the main tent. Jason Paul will take the stage on Sept. 7 at 7 p.m., playing acoustic rock and country hits. Sept. 8 will see the band Cheyenne entertain the audience with past and present country favorites, starting at 8 p.m. A show by The Bulldogs, who will perform rock and roll classics from the 1950s and ’60s, will close out the festival on Sept. 9 at 8:30 p.m.

Highlights of the festival’s first day include a pet parade in the park at 6 p.m., followed by a pie-eating contest in the main tent at 6:30 p.m. Both events are free, but require registration. The pie-eating competition will include youth, adult and celebrity divisions.

Among the activities of special note on Friday are the doubles corn-bag toss tournament and tractor pull, organized by the Roanoke Tractor Pullers Association (RTPA) and sanctioned by the National Tractor Pullers Association. Both events will commence at 7 p.m., with the former taking place in the park’s tennis courts and the latter in the park’s pull field. There is a fee to attend the tractor pull.

On Saturday, children’s games will be held on the tennis courts from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., with prizes at stake.

The festival’s biggest draw, its parade, will depart St. Joseph Catholic Church at 3 p.m. and proceed down Main Street to its end point on Vine Street.

“Our parade draws thousands — I mean, literally, thousands — of people,” marvels Tucker.

The entries from the festival’s cake competition will be auctioned off in the main tent from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Attendees can get a look at the Wizard of Oz-inspired confections prior to their sale, in the morning at 11 a.m. and the afternoon at 2 p.m.

Following the auction, sounds from the festival’s demolition derby will start to fill the park at 7 p.m. Like the tractor pull, the derby is organized by the RTPA and requires an entry fee.

Once this year’s festival wraps up, it won’t be long before planning begins for next year’s. Tucker, who’s been a volunteer with the festival for over 20 years, invites his fellow Roanoke residents to get engaged in that process.

“It’s been a very long, ongoing festival,” he says. “Basically, the problem we’re having is staff — we need to get more volunteers.”

The experience of volunteering with the festival and making it an enjoyable event for attendees is a gratifying one, notes Tucker.

“We try to put on a quality program,” he says. “We have the big tent that gets people out of the rain and the sun, the tables and chairs where people can sit down as a group or a family and listen to the music and eat and have a good time.”