Fall festival aims to keep ‘Love’ strong

Painting pumpkins, decorating windows and shopping on Main Street — it’s easy to first “fall in love with Ridgefield.” But as with any good relationship, the challenge lies in finding a way for that love to endure.

That’s the goal organizers of the town’s annual fall festival — Fall in Love with Ridgefield — hope to achieve this weekend when hundreds of families visit the village to take part in the latest seasonal celebration.

“We’ve all fallen in love with Ridgefield and our beautiful town center at one point or another,” said Mary Jones, owner of Rodier Flowers on Main Street and the new president of Downtown Ridgefield. “What we want is for people to stay in love with Ridgefield. …

“And it’s our responsibility — the downtown merchants, the nonprofits, the townspeople — to keep that love strong and keep it going. We’re all very privileged to have it.”

Fall in Love has a little bit of everything.

There’s stuff for kids, like haunted hayrides in Ballard Park on Friday night and window decorating on Main Street Saturday morning, and there are civic things, like giving blood at Ridgefield Supply or getting a flu shot at the RVNA.

“You can even register to vote, too, if you haven’t already,” Jones said.

If that’s not enough, there will be restaurants offering special fall dishes, retail stores debuting their new storefronts, seasonal discounts for shoppers, and pumpkin painting for kids on the green next to Prime Burger. There’ll also be balloon artists, a scarecrow contest, plenty of music, and a children’s book sale at the library.

“We’re also inviting all children and families to get their library cards from 10 to 2 Saturday,” said Mary Rindfleisch, assistant director at the Ridgefield Library and a Downtown Ridgefield member. “We figured if people will be wandering around the village, then what better time to try and get them in here?”

Library to Keeler

The downtown’s nonprofits will be busy all weekend.

“From the library down to the Keeler Tavern, there will be free events and activities throughout the day Saturday,” Jones said.

Besides the card signup event, the library will be hosting its annual children’s book sale until 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14. There will also be voter registration booths Saturday, and a concert for families on the lawn starting at 11:30.

SPHERE will host a free jewelry-making event Saturday at its pop-up location at 421 Main Street.

ROAR will be hosting a pet adoption event — called “Fall in Love with a New Furry Friend!” — at the Weichert real estate office on Main Street

The Aldrich Museum will offer free admission as well as several arts and crafts activities for the whole family.

Down on Main Street a little farther, the Keeler Tavern will also offer free admission to the museum and show off its new “Hands on History” exhibit to interested residents.

Back closer to the village, the RVNA will offer flu shots by appointment.

“Flu shots, voter registration, give blood — these are all good citizen things that you can do while the kids are having fun with pumpkins or running around decorating our store windows,” Rindfleisch said.

Merchants and kids

Of course, the for-profits will be busy, too.

Besides seasonal promotions and speciality items, the downtown merchants will welcome young artists in their stores to decorate their windows in celebration of the fall.

It’ll be right in time for the annual Halloween walk in two weeks.

“No candy or costumes this time around,” Rindfleisch said. “But we’ll have as much festive fall stuff as possible.”

The pumpkins, which come from the Jesse Lee patch, will all be painted in the morning before noon. The window painting should also conclude around that time, which leaves ample time for some shopping — and eating — in the afternoon.

“Fall in Love is a lot less frenetic than the Holiday Stroll,” Rindfleisch said. “It’s more about the young families, and that’s why you see the hayride as the main event on Friday night every year, but there are a lot of things being done to make this festival open to everyone.”

New night

The Main Street fun runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, but adults who want to enjoy the downtown for themselves can come two days early, on Thursday, Oct. 12, when the merchants will continue to have extended hours until 8 p.m.

“The downtown merchants want to make ourselves available to residents when they’re available, and that’s why they’re staying open late on Thursday,” Jones said. “These stores want people to shop in them, and so far it’s been proven to work.”

The theme for Thursday night is Fall in Love in Ridgefield.

“Love will be in the air,” Jones said. “Why not make it a date night?”

Town-first mind-set

Jones, who has been a member of Downtown Ridgefield for the past three years before taking over as president on Oct. 1, said the relationship town residents have with the village stems from a sense of loyalty that’s sometimes forgotten in the chaos of modern-day life.

“We want them to think of us first, engage with us first,” she said. “We understand it might not be easy, but there are so many generous organizations in this town that support one another and support this community, and they’re happy to do it as long as they’re in a good place.”

The cycle of generosity is fueled by a dedication to shopping local, Jones said, and begins with customers who love to go downtown and support business there.

“Shop around town before going to the mall or the outlets; shop here before online,” she said. “These destinations all have a purpose but we have a purpose, too. …

“You can’t go online to get the Norman Rockwell experience, and we want to give our residents and our visitors that experience.”