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Local families maintain traditions at abnormally hot Monroe County Fall Festival

<p>Chloe Wirt, 9, and Maddie Wright, a senior at IU, dance at the Monroe County Fall Festival on Sept. 23 with Indiana Dance Company. The dancers performed multiple clogging styles of dance.</p>

Chloe Wirt, 9, and Maddie Wright, a senior at IU, dance at the Monroe County Fall Festival on Sept. 23 with Indiana Dance Company. The dancers performed multiple clogging styles of dance.

The queen sat in the shade, her throne a blue metal folding chair, her scepter a Fritos bag filled with cheese, beef and other taco fixings. 

It was hotter this year than it usually is when the Monroe County Fall Festival comes to Ellettsville, but IU sophomore and newly crowned Fall Festival Queen Reagan White said she can remember years ago when she was so cold she had to wear her dad’s sweatshirt as she watched the parade. This year, however, the 90-degree weather forced her into a cooler area to eat her celebratory walking taco.

White, an elementary education major, said she has been coming to the festival ever since she was born with her father, Kirk White. He was involved in local politics when she was a child, so they always walked the parade together. She said she decided to compete to get out of her comfort zone, having never participated in anything resembling a pageant, and be a good representative for the county on her own.

“Everyone knows my dad,” she said. “I just kind of wanted to be known for my own thing.”

The Monroe County Fall Festival, in Ellettsville from Sept. 21-23, was three days of events, fair food and more celebrating the transition from summer to fall. The parade on the last day of the festival featured White and runners-up waving to the crowd of festival-goers along with floats advertising for local businesses and churches. 

One parade entry was a line of Kia Souls with flame decals as members of the Turning Point Apostolic Church displayed a banner that declared their “souls on fire for Jesus.” Another, for the Unchained Gang Motorcycle Ministry, consisted of a man dressed as Jesus dragging a large wooden cross behind him flanked by a procession of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Festival-goers set up foldable camp chairs along the sidewalk as floats drove past throwing candy, which the children in attendance dived after to collect in buckets, pockets or just their hands.

Kyle Sargent, 10, was crouched on the ground at the intersection of Temperance and Sale Streets waiting for the candy to come to him, a month-too-early Halloween candy bucket at the ready. 

“I like parades because of the candy,” he said. 

His mother, 26-year-old Stevie Sargent, said the parade was something nice to do on a Saturday.

A few feet away, 30-year old Emily Bedel watched the parade with her two sons, 3-year-old Brody and 8-month-old Rowan. At one point in the parade, Brody high-fived a man dressed as Batman and turned back to his parents with a big grin on his face. His mother smiled back.

Bedel, born and raised in Ellettsville, said she has been coming to the Monroe County Fall Festival for years. When she was a girl, she was in the parade as a member of the Edgewood High band, but now she stands on the side of the road as they march past in their matching gray T-shirts.

“The parade – the festival, too – felt much bigger back in the day,” she said. “It may have felt bigger because I was a kid.”

After the parade ended, the festival began a little ways down State Road 46. Local business vendor tables, mini golf, a bungee jump and trucks selling lemon shake-ups, pork tenderloin sandwiches, walking tacos and more were set up in Campbell’s Park for the second half of the event.

A wooden stage surrounded by speakers and blue metal folding chairs was a popular part of the festival, partly because of the Indiana Dance Company’s performance and partly as a source of shade. 

Sandra Clark, 64, sat by the stage to see her granddaughter Emma perform with the dance company and to try and rescue her napkin-wrapped and rapidly melting vanilla ice cream cone from the sun. She sat with her other two grandchildren and her husband as she waited for Emma to dance. 

“We like the festival because we see people we know, see the grandkids, eat the fair food,” she said. “It’s just really enjoyable.”

The walking-taco-wielding queen sat only a few rows away from Clark, relaxing after spending her day post-parade walking around the festival and giving her tiara to little girls so she could see their faces light up as they put it on and pretended that they were queens, too.

White said she likes the festival because it puts the Monroe County community in perspective. 

“When you come to things like this you see everyone you know,” she said. “It turns big things, like what you think IU is, into this small Midwestern town that everyone loves and wants to come and see.”

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