Festival leader rushes through frantic days Thousands expected to attend annual Mount Airy event

October 06, 1995|By JACKIE POWDER | JACKIE POWDER,SUN STAFF

It's Fall Festival time in Mount Airy, and that means that Ben Gue has no time for his Main Street antiques and gifts store.

For the past two weeks, Mr. Gue has been dealing with the last-minute crises and planning details associated with the festival, which he has chaired since 1991.

The event, to be held this weekend, traditionally draws thousands of people to Mount Airy's Main Street. Visitors can browse among the craft booths, feast on food vendors' fare and listen to the music to be provided by a variety of bands.

As the festival approaches, Mr. Gue spends much of his time fielding calls from festival participants who want to know what the plans are in case of bad weather or what office should receive the food permit application.

"Yesterday I didn't do anything for my store until 10 to 4 [p.m.]," Mr. Gue said. "I don't mind giving my time, but I always know that the last two weeks I won't get anything done here."

It's an annual routine Mr. Gue has become accustomed to as he heads his fifth Mount Airy Fall Festival.

"I'd like to have some Christmas items out in my shop for the festival," Mr. Gue said. "Maybe I'll get to it by midnight tonight."

Mount Airy Fall Festival began 11 years ago and has grown each season. This year, 130 artisans have rented booths at the event, and Mr. Gue has a waiting list of other vendors. He expects attendance will top 10,000 if the weather is good.

"I always hope that for at least one weekend of the year it can pull the town together," Mr. Gue said of the festival.

Planning for the festival begins in January and festival committee members meet the first Thursday of each month.

"We invite everyone who wants to be on the committee to participate," Mr. Gue said.

This year's committee members include Anne Dorsey, Tina Grogg, Betty Ifert, Marlene Bohn, Audrey Stapf, Jill Shumaker, Mary Spanberger, Jim Hopfer and Mr. Gue's business partner, Rick Lawson.

The Fall Festival will kick off at 9 a.m. tomorrow with a PTA Fun Run starting at the municipal parking lot off Park Ave. Other highlights of the weekend include a performance by the South Carroll High School Band, a chili cooking competition and pumpkin-painting and scarecrow-making contests.

Missing from the festival will be the Mount Airy Firehouse Restaurant and Microbrewery, which won't be opening its bar or restaurant tomorrow as planned, because construction work isn't completed.

But the brewery will serve a selection of beers during the festival, including two of its own brews, in one of the firehouse's old engine bays, said A. Reid Allison III, a co-owner of the microbrewery.

Mr. Gue expects this year's Fall Festival to end much the same way others have: He and fellow committee member Audrey Stapf will look at each other and breathe a sigh of relief.

"We both end up doing it for another year," he said. "But once this thing stops being fun, I'm gone."

Mount Airy Fall Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Shuttle buses will be available from the Firemen's Carnival Grounds to Main Street.

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