History of the Duluth Fall Festival
The roots of Duluth Fall Festival go back more than 50 years.
Two festivals from the past paved the way for today’s Duluth Fall Festival. Duluth’s first festival was held in the spring of 1962. This was a five-week celebration of the founding of the town. Inspired by fashion crazes from the past, participants wore turn-of-the century clothing and men grew beards Next, in 1976, another successful spring festival was held, celebrating the centennial of Duluth’s charter, and the bi-centennial of our nation.
In 1983 Duluth decided to hold a festival again. By the time plans were ready, it had turned into a Fall Festival. Thirty-five years later, the Duluth Fall Festival is bigger and better than ever, and is always held the last weekend in September.
The Festival begins on Saturday morning with a huge parade through the streets of Duluth with more than 3,000 participants. The Parade is followed by an Opening Ceremony on Festival Center stage. Entertainment then takes over the stage for the rest of the day. A second stage is located in Parsons Alley.
Sunday morning starts out with a 5K Road Race through Downtown Duluth. This is followed by a worship service, by Duluth First United Methodist Church, on the Town Green. Continuous entertainment at the two stages follows for the rest of the day.
With more than 375 booths, the life of the Festival is found on the streets of Duluth. Vendors sell everything you can imagine, with something for everybody. You will find handmade crafts of every description, including clothing, linens, fall and Christmas decorations, furniture, jewelry, toys, plus, many, many other items. Sponsors present services for improving your life, home, and family. Separate areas contain kids’ games and rides, a full-fledged carnival, Man’s Corner, etc. so this is really a festival for the entire family. And of course, the star is always the FOOD! FOOD! FOOD!
Every Festival has been a learning experience, and has brought new ideas, new events, and many improvements. In the beginning there were only four committees: Food, Arts & Crafts, Parade and Entertainment. Now, more than 50 committees, run the various aspects of the festival, with most headed up by co-chairpersons.
Though the Festival only lasts for two days it is a year-round event. In October (after the Festival is over), plans start for the next year. The Festival committee meets at least monthly going on hiatus only in December and January (except for a Festival Christmas party). Every aspect of the Festival is evaluated to improve it for the future.
The Duluth Fall Festival Carnival returns this year to host a full-fledged carnival, with a variety of rides and games. Be sure to take a ride on the Ferris wheel, where you can get a bird’s eye view of the continually changing Duluth skyline.
Come see local schools—elementary through high school with different activities, fire trucks, antique cars, local dignitaries, boy scouts, girl scouts, dance classes, sponsors, and clowns! The parade begins Saturday at 10:00 am. Streets close by 9:45 am so come early.
Immediately after the Parade, join us at the Festival Center Amphitheater for the Opening Ceremony. The Parade Grand Marshal and Honorary Grand Marshal, and other local dignitaries, will be honored.
Promptly at 8:00, the race starts with runners winding through historic Duluth. At the end of the race, participants receive a complimentary donut and coffee, courtesy of Dunkin Donuts on Buford Hwy, Duluth. The Festival also provides water and energy snacks.