Leafing summer behind, falling into autumn

One place that truly takes advantage of the autumn season is Jim Thorpe in Carbon County.

Home to one of the most prestigious fall foliage festivals in the region, the small town’s celebration is for everyone. Offering children’s activities, craft vendors and live entertainment, the festival takes place over three weekends in October, and it has a huge economic impact on the local community.

The Jim Thorpe Tourism Agency, which produces the free festival which runs the weekends of Oct. 6-7, 13-14 and 20-21, has many hands on deck to make the event possible.

“We rely on numerous volunteers to assist—especially with the logistics of the parking and shuttle service from Mauch Chunk Lake Park,” said Michael Rivkin, who chairs the festival committee.

“In the end, we can’t produce the event without the generous support of the community… countless contributions, from individuals and businesses alike, that directly pay for parts of the festival, like the entertainment programs,” Rivkin said.

Rivkin said the festival is very important to the area and estimates that the event attracts anywhere between 5-10,000 visitors per weekend.

“The economic impact is important to all of Jim Thorpe; the local merchants, pubs and restaurants of course, and naturally lodging,” Rivkin said.

The downtown will be filled with 30 artisans, craftsmen and food vendors, mostly located at Josiah White Park.

There will also be four music and entertainment stages throughout the historic district: The gazebo in Josiah White Park, Race Street, Quarry Street and the steps of the Mauch Chunk Opera House. Each location has, in most, two free concerts per day.

In addition, ticketed entertainment takes place each Saturday night of the fall foliage weekends at the Mauch Chunk Opera House, recognized as one of the finest and most beautiful downtown music venues in Pennsylvania.

“Jim Thorpe’s gem of a venue has a great lineup including the Weeklings tribute to the Beatles, the Grand Slambovians and Glimmer Twins tribute to the Rolling Stones,” Prokop said.

If you’re looking for something a little spookier, the Jim Thorpe Rotary Club sponsors the Old Mauch Chunk Ghost Walk where you can learn about the spectral spirits that inhabit the town. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children 7-12.

Rivkin said that JTTA has worked extensively with the borough and county entities to manage traffic and provide more parking solutions.

“Some of the ways we work to manage the expected [and historical] traffic numbers is by utilizing the parking lots at Mauch Chunk Lake Park,” Rivkin said.

There will be a shuttle services running continually from the lake to the opera house, from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. each festival day.

He also said that like last year, the festival will bring back the VIP parking pass program which gives folks a premium parking spot adjacent to the shuttle bus pick-up and drop-off location at the lake.

He noted that the Jim Thorpe Police Department also assists in managing traffic at the intersection of Hazard Square and that crossing guards help ensure pedestrians keep clear the intersection when there is not a ‘walk’ signal.

“The traffic’s not “fixed”; our aim is to make it better with the given logistics,” Rivkin said.

Parking is also available in the county lot behind the train station.

Rivkin and the JTTA are expecting record-setting numbers for this year’s festival, and Rivkin said that many of the local lodging locations have been sold out for all three weeks since early 2018.

He said that this festival is opportunity to showcase what the town does best: “Present our friendly, helpful small-town selves, and let the rest of the country know what we do best here: provide a cool experience showing our historic heritage to all.”

The Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau expects peak colors to be on or about Oct. 24 this year.

“If weekends don’t work for your schedule, consider visiting midweek when the town is less crowded and there is more availability for an overnight stay,” Propok said.

Restrooms are open at the visitors’ center downtown, and the opera house restrooms and bar will be open from noon to 5 p.m. on festival days.

For more information on the festival, visit www.jimthorpe.org.

Christopher Holland
Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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