Hayrides, scarecrows, and scavenger hunts — it’s time to Fall In Love With Ridgefield once again.
The annual fall festival presented by the Downtown Ridgefield kicks off Friday, Oct. 19, in the afternoon with the Keeler Tavern’s scarecrow contest and runs through Saturday, Oct. 20, with with popcorn tasting around the village.
The popcorn contest harmonizes this year’s festival with the third annual Ridgefield Independent Film Festival (RIFF), which kicks off Thursday, Oct. 18, with the premiere of Paul Dano’s “Wildlife” at the Ridgefield Playhouse and concludes Sunday, Oct. 21, with a showing of the maple sugar-inspired documentary “Vermont Fancy,” also at the Playhouse.
RIFF will hold additional screenings and special events at the Aldrich Museum, the Keeler Tavern Museum, the Ridgefield Library, the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, and the Ridgefield Theater Barn.
“We think the film festival is going to bring a lot of people into town and because there are so many venues, I think people will be walking around the village a lot and hopefully stopping as they go from spot to spot,” said Ursula Hanavan, who owns and operates Interiors & Designs by Ursula on Main Street. “Our goal is to really make this our best showing of Ridgefield, no pun intended.”
Fall in Love starts with scarecrows being put up around town Friday — with winners announced Saturday after votes are counted, but that’s not the only event on the menu. The annual haunted hayride for kids will begin at dusk in Ballard Park.
The hayride event is done in collaboration with the Ridgefield Lions Club, the Ridgefield Boys and Girls Club, and Ridgefield Parks and Recreation.
“It’s free,” said Hanavan, “All people have to do is show and up and get on line.”
Time to paint
Fall in Love kicks off early Saturday with pumpkin painting on the green next to Prime Burger from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The pumpkins are purchased from the Jesse Lee pumpkin patch and brought to that location, with proceeds being donated to residents on a Navajo reservation in New Mexico who grow the pumpkins. Coldwell Banker is the event’s sponsor.
Pumpkins won’t be the only thing being painted Saturday morning. Downtown Ridgefield merchants can sign up to have their windows painted by students. Those interested in painting and having their windows painted should contact please contact Robin Matthews with Ridgefield Parks and Recreation at 203-431-2755 or by email email@example.com.
“It won’t just be pumpkins and windows,” Hanavan said, “there will also be face painting going around town all day. And there’s going to be roving balloon artists going around the village.”
The hunt is on
As part of RIFF and Fall in Love, there will be a scavenger hunt on Saturday, Oct. 20, 10 a.m. starting at the Ridgefield Playhouse.
“Players will be given clues to six downtown locations. Along the way they must ‘find’ things on their list,” explained Geoffrey Morris of TownVibe Media, who has taken over as RIFF’s executive director this year.
“And by find, we mean take a photo and post on social media,” Morris said. “It’s a free event and open to all ages and sizes.”
Main Street will be open throughout both Fall in Love and the film festival.
In addition to Morris, RIFF Festival Director Megan Smith-Harris is also new to the scene this year.
Smith-Harris has curated a selection of 103 independent films from 20 countries around the world. Eighteen feature documentaries, 13 narratives and 72 shorts will make their Connecticut debut over the course of the four-day festival. Tickets to the festival are on sale now at www.riffct.org.
““RIFF 2018 has been reimagined and programmed as a film-lover’s festival with something for everyone,” said Smith-Harris. “This year, we have an incredibly strong documentary slate — dramatically paced, issue-oriented films that are destined to ignite thoughtful conversation during post screening filmmaker Q&As. Equally compelling are our range of narrative features, several which are debut features by exciting new filmmakers … We wouldn’t have a film festival if it weren’t for the dedication and creativity of the filmmakers, so we want to treat them royally and make sure they keep coming back.”
This year’s Fall in Love festival also features new face behind the scenes. Andy Forsyth, the assistant director of the Ridgefield Library, has taken over Downtown Ridgefield’s secretarial duties. The role was previously held by Mary Rindfleisch, the library’s assistant director who passed away earlier this year.
“It’s such a great group of volunteers,” said Forsyth. “They were well underway planning this event by the time I started in July. What amazes me is that everyone just comes ready to contribute at every meeting. There’s never a shortage of ideas.”
While painting pumpkins and windows has been a long-established tradition of Fall in Love With Ridgefield, this year’s festival will feature some new events.
Way of the Sword Fencing, a member of Downtown Ridgefield located at 21 Governor Street, will be hosting “Stab a Pumpkin” on Friday, Oct. 19, starting at 4 p.m. The event is suitable for kids ages 6 and older, and for adults. Guests are also invited to attend a fencing demonstration and tournament at Way of the Sword Saturday, Oct. 20, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The library, in addition to hosting the film festival’s shorts and documentaries, will be having its annual book sale Saturday on its front lawn from 10 to 2.
“We might end up extending the hours depending on the foot traffic coming out of the building from all the RIFF screenings,” Forsyth said.
It won’t be the only place for readers to rejoice.
Up on Main Street, Books on the Common will again be partnering with the Max Michael Rosenfield Foundation for its annual book drive that benefits Family and Children’s Aid in Danbury.
The foundation will be collecting books in front of the store, and Books on the Common is offering a 20% discount on children’s books purchased that day for donation to the foundation.
inRidgefield, a new website that was launched by business owner Wayne Addessi in September, will be offering an arts and culture raffle during the Fall in Love festival Saturday.
Residents can enter to win free tickets to local theater, arts, and musical performances.
The inRidgefield table will be in front of Addessi Jewelers, 387 Main Street. For more information, visit inRidgefield.com.
There will also be a button-making table in front of Rodier Flowers on Main Street Saturday, Oct. 20.
“The theme of the buttons is going to be ‘Love All of Ridgefield,’” said Mary Jones, owner of Rodier Flowers and chairwoman of Downtown Ridgefield. “We want there to be a message of inclusivity and acceptance for all.”
For Downtown Ridgefield organizers, Fall in Love is perhaps the best festival of the year to highlight all the town has to offer — both to residents and to outsiders.
“It’s one of the nicest times of the year,” said Forsyth. “It’s really easy to showcase Ridgefield when the leaves are turning and the weather is making it feel like a quintessential New England town.”
Jones said she fell in love with Ridgefield during this time of year, and that’s when she decided to move here.
“We took one drive through it and we fell in love,” she said of moving east from the Midwest with her family years ago.
“We looked at four or five different towns but when we pulled up to Ridgefield, we just knew it,” she added. “I remember saying to my husband, ‘This is our town, now let’s go find our house.’”
Editor’s note: As part of this year’s Fall in Love festival, readers are being asked to submit the reason why they fell in love with Ridgefield. Letters can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Fall in Love.” Submissions will be used during a later Downtown Ridgefield festival.