CARTHAGE, Mon. – The 55th annual Maple Leaf Festival is back, with a new parade route and other changes coming in October.
Carthage Chamber of Commerce President Mark Elliff, who helps organize his last Maple Leaf Festival before he retires, said the Maple Leaf Parade will return on Saturday October 16 after a pandemic-forced hiatus in 2020 .
“The parade starts where it normally starts on the southwest side of the square,” said Elliff. “And instead of going around the square, it’s down Fourth Street, on the south side of the square, and then turn south on Grant, which is the normal parade route.
“The main reason is that when we didn’t have the parade last year, we added the vendors to the space. The crowd liked that better because it was less crowded, especially on the south side, where most of the food vendors used to be. In this way we can integrate food sellers and regular sellers around the square. “
The parade starts at 9 a.m. and usually lasts between two and three hours.
Parade entries line up southwest of the square and head north on Main Street, east on Fourth Street, then south on Grant Street and Grand Avenue to Centennial Avenue, where they turn east and at Carthage Junior High School end. Many of the parade’s marching bands will then go to Carthage High School for the 56th annual Maple Leaf Marching Band Festival, which begins at 11:30 am and lasts all day.
The Marching Band Festival was also canceled last year due to COVID-19.
Elliff said the 2021 festival will include two new events not included in the published Maple Leaf calendar available at the chamber office and in businesses across town.
One of these will be “Glow Golf”, which is scheduled for Thursday evening October 7th at the Carthage Municipal Golf Course. Elliff said that on holes 1, 9, 17 and 18 people can play four holes of golf using glowing golf balls and following glowing sticks planted along the fairways.
“Clubs are provided by the Carthage Golf Course and Park Department,” said Elliff. “It’s not meant to be a competitive event or anything. It is only intended as a fun evening event. I think we will have some food stalls here too. “
Those interested should call the chamber at 417-358-2373 for more information or to register for the event.
Elliff said the other new event is “Balloon Glow,” scheduled for Sunday, October 10th, 6-9pm on the northeast corner of the old Myers Park Airport. Elliff said three local balloonists will set up their balloons at 6 p.m. and they will be visible from almost anywhere in the Myers Park area on the south side of Carthage.
“They’ll fire their balloons just before dark and keep them burning during that time so we can have the glow when the sun goes down, which is going to be really pretty,” Elliff said. “We’re going to have food stalls and bouncy castles for kids so it’s definitely going to be a family fun event.”
• The Maple Leaf Queen Pageant was postponed to the first Sunday of the festival a little earlier. It will take place on Sunday, October 10th at 5:30 p.m. in the Carthage R-9 Auditorium, 714 S. Main St. The new time will allow the new queen to participate in the Balloon Glow.
• Music under the maples, On Saturday, October 9th, from 3pm to 10pm, Central Park will have an Oktoberfest-themed theme with live music, local beers, food trucks and family games. A beer garden will be created at the event.
• Another new event takes place on the weekend before the official start of the festival. The Jasper County Sheriff’s Office will host an alternate Christmas fundraiser, A Night Out at the Courthouse, September 6-9. Saturday October 2nd in Carthage Square. There will be live music, a car show, silent auction, inflatables, pumpkin carving for kids, and other events.
• Carthage native Tim Hilton will play a piano concert at First United Methodist Church, 617th S. Main St., Carthage on Sunday, October 17th at 2pm. This concert is free and hosted by the Carthage Musical Devotees group.
• The Maple Leaf Auto Show, Relocated to Kellogg Lake Park last year, will continue at that location on Saturday, October 16, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in 2021. The accompanying Maple Leaf Cruise Night will take place at the Route 66 Drive-in Theater west of Carthage on Old Route 66, starting at 5 p.m. on October 16.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the chamber to cancel the traditional parade in 2020 after few marching bands and other parade regulars signed up. A private group held a smaller parade along Grand Avenue on the traditional third Saturday in October, but that parade was not approved by the Maple Leaf Festival.
Many of the outdoor events of the rest of the festival were held with social distancing and other precautions.