Falling for Autumnfest
Writer Rebecca Zaner
The leaves may not change color in Phoenix, but that doesn’t mean autumn has forgotten us. The Valley celebrates the beginning of a new season — not necessarily with cooler temperatures, but always with fun activities the whole family can enjoy.
Each year, Anthem rings in the start of fall with Autumnfest. The event features arts and crafts, shopping, carnival rides and many other fall-themed festivities, all located at Anthem Community Park.
“The special events staff works all year to gear up for the events, and we all look forward to them just like the attendees do,” says Kristi Northcutt, director of public affairs for the Anthem Community Council. “They are so much fun for everyone involved. Autumnfest really gets people thinking about the holidays and cooler weather, which is different than our other events in the year.”
Autumnfest is a free event, open to the public. Its popularity has grown over the years, and the event now not only caters to the Anthem community, but also to many visitors from across the Valley who travel to Anthem just to attend. Parking is also free; however, spots at the event location fill up early. Most late arrivals should plan on parking farther from the event and walking to the park.
Guests can enjoy a variety of fall-favorite activities, including a pumpkin patch where guests are welcome to choose their own pumpkins. Some guests purchase them to take home and carve, while others stay at the festival and decorate them. Pumpkins cost $5 each.
“Watching all the kids walk around with their pumpkins is the best part,” says Northcutt. “Sometimes, the pumpkins are bigger than they are!”
Pets are welcome to attend the event, but are not allowed in the pumpkin patch. There are plenty of open spaces and grassy areas for pets to enjoy.
Also popular at the festival is the family photo booth. Families (and their pets) are invited to pose on haystacks and take pictures with pumpkins and scarecrows. This is a free activity, and all photos are uploaded to the Anthem Community Council’s Facebook page for guests to access later and download for free. They make wonderful holiday keepsakes.
While partaking in the festivities, guests will listen to live music performed by area musicians. There is also a magician and balloon artist present at the festival each day to entertain the crowds. Children will love the kids’ zone, complete with bouncy inflatables, train rides and hayrides through the park. Inflatables and train rides are an additional cost, but the hayrides are free.
Each year, the Council partners with the Daisy Mountain Fire Department and Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office at the event. Smokey Bear will visit the festival to promote fire safety as part of Firewise Days. Kids can tour a fire truck and patrol vehicles, and visit the CERT trailer as part of this partnership.
“Putting law enforcement out there in a positive and educational manner gives our community a nice reason to get to know them in person,” says Northcutt. “The kids especially love it. We aim to incorporate these partners at all of our events.”
While children enjoy the many activities geared toward their age, adults can enjoy the shopping and viewing pleasures provided by the many vendors at the event. Autumnfest is arts-and-crafts-focused; therefore, the vendors include unique and creative displays for sale featuring jewelry, hand-carved wooden decor and furniture, children’s items, clothing, pet care and accessories, holiday-themed decor, photography, paintings, quilts, food items (olive oils, vinegars, home-baked goods, seasonings, sauces, etc.), body lotions, soaps, candles and much more.
About half of the vendors are new this year, which ensures that there are always new products to enjoy.
“There are, of course, favorites on-site, but there are also many new activities and vendors,” Northcutt says. “Those who come every year love the familiarity of the pumpkin patch, festival food and live music, staples that are engrained in the event.”
One of the most popular events at Autumnfest is the carnival. Featuring many fairground-favorite rides such as a Ferris wheel, swings, carousel, fun house and thrill rides like Vertigo, there is something for every age and level of excitement. Prices and times of the carnival will be posted online.
“We love being in the park and with the people,” says Northcutt of the entire Council staff and volunteers who help with the event. “It reminds us how special the community really is. It gets people excited to come here, and reminds people why they love to live here.”
While the Council’s signature events (Anthem Days, Music in May, Independence Day and Autumnfest) were created for Anthem residents when the development was younger, they have grown so that people now come from across the Valley to enjoy them.
“In fact,” Northcutt says, “some people move to this community simply because they fell in love with it while they were visiting our event. It is not hard to be drawn in.”
The staff is amazed at how many people are now attending. Anthem’s Autumnfest has seen a large spike in popularity over the years. The event sees thousands of people each year and covers all 63 acres of the Anthem Community Park.
“To come well-prepared, I would say to have cash on hand in case there are some vendors or activities that simply can’t be bypassed,” Northcutt shares of tips from past festivals. “But we will have an ATM on-site if needed. Bring sunscreen and water. The weather can be unpredictable, but we will be open rain or shine. I also recommend bringing lawn chairs or blankets. Parking can be a challenge, so once you’re in, sit and stay for awhile. Often, folks who do get a spot do not want to leave, so they’ll arrive early and make a whole day of it.”
The festival is open October 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and October 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The carnival will have extended hours, which will be posted online and on the Council’s social media sites.