Garrett County's Autumn Glory Festival Celebrates 50 Years

Last Updated on Sep 8, 2017 at 9:35am | Tourism & Recreation

Article courtesy of NCWV Media - The Republican.  Staff Writer: Cynthia McCloud.
 
 
When the Autumn Glory Festival turns 50 in mid-October, the leaves of black maple, beech and hickory trees throughout Garrett County, Maryland, will turn golden in celebration.
 
Autumn Glory, which is scheduled for Oct. 11-15 in downtown Oakland, attracts more than 60,000 people. This year’s festival is sponsored by Garrett Regional Medical Center, a proud affiliate of WVU Medicine.
 
Since the event began in 1967, it has gotten worldwide attention as a must-see destination. In 2007, MSN.com named Autumn Glory as one of the top fall festivals in the world, ranking it higher than Paris’ Festival d’Automne, Munich’s Oktoberfest and San Francisco’s Dias De los Muertos.
 
From 2008-2014, travelchannel.com listed the festival as one of America’s Three Best Autumn Road Trips. In 2013, the Travel Channel listed Deep Creek Lake, Autumn Glory and Garrett County’s Fall Foliage Driving Tours as one of the top 10 best Fall Foliage Road Trips in America. In 2014, Travel & Leisure magazine agreed. Good Housekeeping magazine concurred in 2015.
 
Most recently, in May, Smithsonian.com named Oakland as one of its Top 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2017, specifically calling out Autumn Glory and Garrett County’s two fall foliage tours. Maps and directions are available at visitdeepcreek.com or the Visitors Center in McHenry,
Maryland.
 
“You want to be in Oakland when the leaves change,” the article’s authors said. “That time of year, the historic western Maryland county seat comes alive, blanketed with deep reds, smudgy purples and crisp yellow leaves.”
 
There’s more than leaf-peeping and craft-browsing for the five days of Autumn Glory in mid-October.
 
“It is definitely a group effort,” Oakland Business Coordinator Michelle Ross said. “The Chamber of Commerce does the Saturday Grand Feature Parade at 1 p.m. Oct. 14 and the craft shows at the lake. The Oakland Volunteer Fire Department does the Fireman’s Parade on Oct. 12, and the Arts Council does the craft shows downtown.”
 
Ross, who grew up in Garrett County, said her favorite thing about Autumn Glory is different every year.
 
“It was a day off school and we always watched the parades,” Ross said. “Now my kids are older and they’re into dance teams and we’re shuffling the kids up to the floats and watching them and then running back to pick them up.”
 
Getting turkey dinners and strolling through the craft shows are more interesting now that she’s an adult.
 
“Now I work for the town and head up the fiddle and banjo championships,” she said. “It has evolved into something completely different for me. I still try to hit all my favorites.”
 
Sarah Duck of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce said the week is packed with historic area tours; antique and fine arts exhibits; farmers’ market; 5K walk; musical concerts at the Front Page Stage, on Second Street near the Post Office and on the Box Car at the train station; a quilt show; corn maze; art glass exhibits; pumpkin chucking contest, horseback trail rides, and more.
 
Area high school marching bands will show off their field shows in the Western Maryland Tournament of Bands at 6 p.m. Oct. 13.
 
Musicians of all ages will compete during the Official Maryland State Banjo & Mandolin Championships, to be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 13 at Southern Garrett High School, Ross said.
 
“The Mountaintop Cruisers Car Club do a big cruise-in on Sunday (Oct. 14) that takes up the whole downtown area,” Ross said.
 
Also on Sunday is the Great Pumpkin Race & Festival on the rapids at Adventure Sports Center International and a no-hands sundae eating contest at Lakeside Creamery in McHenry.
 
Throughout the week, community organizations and businesses sell turkey dinners that remind locals of the festival’s roots.
 
Local historians say the forerunner to Autumn Glory was the Garrett County Turkey Growers’ Festival, started when a group of turkey growers occasionally organized and promoted turkey dinners. The meals became annual events when the Lions Club got involved. One early dinner served meals to 475 people who came from New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Ohio, Pennsylvania and many areas of Maryland.
 
The festival designs a commemorative lapel pin for sale each year. And glassmaker Simon Pearce, which has a factory and outlet store in nearby Mountain Lake Park, will be selling pieces of commemorative glassware. An acorn paperweight, Windsor Tankard drinking mug, and engravable ornament will be emblazoned with oak leaves and the words “50th Autumn Glory Festival 2017.” They will be available for order at the Simon Pearce retail store in Mountain Lake Park, Maryland.
 
Pearce spokesperson Meghan Mahoney said, “The Maryland community is very important to us and we wanted to make something special to commemorate the 50th celebration of Autumn Glory.”
 
View the Festival brochure here.