Perched on the banks of the St. Johns River, Orange Park’s moderate temperatures and beautiful scenery have attracted visitors since the late 19th Century. Visitors will find a variety of activities ranging from golfing at the Golf Club on Fleming Island to visiting the driftwood boneyard at Big Talbot Island State Park. Multi-day community events such as Orange Park Fall Festival and Kids Fest offer activities for all ages.
The Orange Park Fall Festival has been a go-to event for thousands of people since it began 35 years ago, and it will take place October 21-22. The free-to-attend event features more than 200 artists and crafters selling everything from recycled art to one-of-a-kind quilts. Attendees will also find a farmers market where they can purchase fresh produce and more. On the lawn and under the oak trees, local and regional musicians and entertainers will perform live throughout the two days of the event. The event also includes more than 30 vendors selling just about any food under the sun. Plus, attendees can buy baked goods and unique treats from artisan food vendors. Featuring family-friendly entertainment, inflatables, pony rides, and more, the kid's zone is a must when attending with children. ResortsandLodges.com interviewed Emily Dockery, Events and Recreation Coordinator for Orange Park to learn more about this community celebration.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
ED: The Fall Festival began in 1982 with roughly twelve craft booths and a couple of guitar players. Thirty-five years later, this two-day festival has over 200 vendors and two stages packed with entertainment from regional and local artists! The Fall Festival is the largest and oldest arts & crafts festival in Clay County.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
ED: The 2016 festival saw approximately 40,000 people over the course of the weekend! That was about 10,000 more than the previous year. We expect similar numbers this year.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
ED: The Fall Festival is a family affair. I’d say our primary audience is between the ages of 25 and 45 with children at home, and they often bring the grandparents too. It’s a great event for food, music, and unique gifts.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
ED: Our park-like setting sets the stage for attendees to enjoy great shopping, good food, top-notch entertainment, and, of course, hometown southern hospitality!
RAL: Take me through the activities of a day at the event.
ED: The Fall Festival has something for everyone to enjoy. Attendees will enjoy shopping for unique, hand-crafted gifts, listening to music on the lawn under the oaks, and eating delicious foods. Our kid's zone is packed with activities and is wallet-friendly. Kids can bounce on inflatables, ride ponies, walk on water, get their faces painted, and even climb into a fire truck. This year’s festival will feature a pumpkin patch photo op.
RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?
ED: There is a strong sense of community at the festival. Visitors will see many local celebrities and elected officials. Our stages feature a variety of local and regional talent. We even have Mountain Faith Band who performed on America’s Got Talent.
RAL: What dining options will attendees encounter?
ED: We will have nearly 30 individual food vendors at the festival. Most will be in the main food court, but we also have a few kid-friendly food vendors in the kid's zone and snack vendors throughout the festival grounds. This year’s menu includes BBQ, seafood, sausages, turkey legs, funnel cakes, snow cones, and so much more!
RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?
ED: The majority of the hotels in our county are located less than two miles from the festival grounds. Local hotel options include Holiday Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Courtyard Marriott, Fairfield Inn, and Day’s Inn. The Club Continental is located directly on the river and offers great boutique accommodations.
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
ED: Absolutely! Most of our artists and vendors are local to Northeast Florida. In addition to supporting the artisans, other local businesses from gas stations to restaurants benefit from the festival traffic.
RAL: Does the event support a particular cause in the community?
ED: The Fall Festival is a major component in the town's goal of becoming an event destination in the community and attracting new residents. All funds raised go back into the special events program.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
ED: Our location makes attending the festival an easy stop for those traveling to other destinations. The town has exceptional traveler amenities and lovely hotels. Clay County also has much to offer the traveler looking for off-the-beaten-path fun. The Town has several scenic parks, pickleball courts, and a skateboard park. Clay County has old-Florida fun such as boat and kayak rentals, campgrounds, hiking trails, and a spring-fed pool. The festival and the community will not disappoint!
For more information about the Orange Park Fall Festival, please visit the event website.