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The onset of fall ushers in a time filled with pumpkins, apple cider, and merriment at the changing color of trees and the beginnings of crisp weather. Whether you’re a spooky season aficionado and enjoy frequenting haunted hayrides or simply a neutral observer in such festivities, there’s no denying the boost in local morale that occurs at this time each year. After the summer months, when residents and businesses take time away from their hometowns, fall is the time to hunker down and engage with local establishments and neighborhoods while sipping on apple cider. Fall activities are a fun way to bring the community together and provide an economic boost to local businesses and vendors, creating the perfect opportunity to strengthen the relationship between people and their communities. Placemaking, or the collaborative process of creating quality places designed for and by communities, is the driving force behind these and many other seasonal festivities. As such, we’ve rounded up some of our staff’s favorite fall activities that foster community connection and economic growth during the spooky season. Take a look!

Krewe of Boo – New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is known for its Mardi Gras parades and throws, with millions funneling into The Crescent City for a week of carnival. However, less is known about the annual Krewe of Boo. This Halloween parade attracts thousands of locals and tourists to the city’s Central Business District, Warehouse District, and French Quarter. With October typically considered one of the city’s ‘off months’, Krewe of Boo provides an opportunity for the community to connect and patronize popular restaurants, bars, concert venues, and other stores near and on the parade route. Weekend activities include a luncheon at the famous House of Blues followed by a traditional jazz second line, a pre-parade masquerade ball, a running of the zombies, and the parade itself on a Saturday night before Halloween – this year’s parade is October 22 at 6:30 PM!

Clarion Autumn Leaf Festival– Clarion, Pennsylvania

The annual nine-day Clarion Autumn Leaf Festival attracts upwards of 500,000 leaf-peeping visitors to a small Pennsylvania town of less than 6,000 people. Organized by the Clarion Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the festival features local vendors and events centered around Appalachian traditions and the fall season. Events and attractions include an antique tractor show, oldies concert, car cruise, motorcycle show, and the PA State Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest. Through its Downtown Deal Days event, the festival promotes shopping small in downtown Clairon. The 69th anniversary of the 9-day festival took place September 24 – October 2, 2022 and was a big hit. To keep tabs on next year’s dates follow the Autumn Leaf Festival on Facebook.

Annual Oak Harbor Apple Festival - Oak Harbor, Ohio

For Oak Harbor, Ohio village residents, autumn doesn’t officially start until the Annual Oak Harbor Apple Festival kickoff. A charming town of less than 3,000 people, Oak Harbor welcomes over 25,000 visitors during its annual apple festival. The crowds are a boon for local businesses, especially apple vendors like Moore Orchards. In the late 1970s, Chamber of Commerce Director Dorothy Heiks founded the festival to showcase Oak Harbor’s small town charm, increase economic activity, and bring the community together through apple runs, baking contests, Cornhole tournaments, and more. What sets the Oak Harbor Apple Festival apart from other fall festivals is the community's dedication to the festival, which is best witnessed in the Paulette Weirich Memorial Grand Parade. As part of this tradition, participants of the parade enthusiastically march through town or ride on decorated floats in celebration of autumn and their beloved apple festival. The apple festival is traditionally held on the second full week of October.

Eastern State Penitentiary Halloween Nights - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Eastern State Penitentiary was a prison in operation from 1829-1971 in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA. At the time of its construction, the prison was the most extensive and expensive structure ever built in the United States and held famous lawbreakers during its operational years – namely, infamous Chicago gangster Al Capone. Today, the Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site is a charitable organization with the goal of interpreting the legacy of American criminal justice reform from the nation’s founding to present day. One of their significant events, Halloween Nights, is an immersive, on-site experience that features five haunted houses, historical tours, themed bars, and live entertainment. Eastern State Penitentiary partners extensively with Fair Chance for Halloween Nights to feature vendors such as Triple Bottom Brewing Company, Down North Pizza, and The Monkey and the Elephant to help create living-wage jobs for people who have experienced incarceration. Eastern State Penitentiary’s Halloween Nights runs through the second week of November –get your tickets here!

Meadville Halloween Parade - Meadville, Pennsylvania

Meadville, PA is a small tool-and-die manufacturing city best known for Channellock and other local community anchors like Acutec, Allegheny College, and local favorite Voodoo Brewery. Over the years, Meadville has grown its small business community and is well known for its beautiful outdoor recreation areas like French Creek, which was named 'River of the Year' by the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources and Conservation this year. Meadville merges its growing small business community and stunning natural resources in the The Meadville Halloween Parade, also known as Pennsylvania’s largest nighttime parade. This year, the parade celebrates its 55th year with the name “Under the Big Top”. Community organizations support the parade through sponsorship, floats, and volunteering, and over 100 community organizations come together to raise money for a local cause every year. This year’s beneficiary is the Crawford County Federated Library System, Meadville’s local library system. The parade is hosted on the Saturday evening closest to Halloween, and families from across the region come to celebrate Crawford County by participating in float decorating, candy throwing (and catching), and spending quality time with their community.


What placemaking examples does your community celebrate during its fall festivities? Consider how these festivities can bring neighbors together, foster small business growth, or celebrate the assets of your community.

Of course, placemaking isn’t limited to activities taking place during the fall. If you would like to get more familiar with placemaking that benefits communities all year round, take a look at the York County Cultural and Outdoor Asset Map, the Charlotte Arts and Culture Project, and the work of Allegheny Together.


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