Another great Autumn Lights Festival in the books

Thousands turn out for food, fun, community spirit

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  • Children learn to do traditional Hawaiian dances at the Autumn Lights Festival in West Milford. photo by mark Cranston

  • A festgoer performs a feat of dexterity and skill by leaping over an obstacle at the fest. photo by mark Cranston

  • West Milford first responders demonstrate rescue techniques. photo by mark Cranston

  • Dora, one of the costumed characters at the fest, waves to the crowds Saturday. photo by mark Cranston

  • Jade Helander takes a break while playing in a bouncy castle at the fest. photo by mark Cranston

  • Making music at the fest is just a matter of tooting your own horn. photo by mark Cranston

  • Patrick checks out the sand art table. photo by mark Cranston

By Carol Reif

Overcast skies put a slight chill on the opening of the township's annual Autumn Lights Festival last Saturday, but by noon the sun was out and the crowds surged, said organizer Rocky Hazelman.

About 20,000 people were expected, and about 15,000 showed up, he said, adding that the weather didn't deter regular fest-goers from turning up bright and early.

"Even in the morning, we had a pretty good showing," said Hazelman.

ALF, as it is known locally, is now in its 23rd year. It was started to celebrate the installation of a traffic lights at the corner of Marshall Hill and Union Valley roads.

There were close to 300 vendors and plenty of things for the whole family to do, including rides, games, food and a children's costume parade, which was a new feature this year.

"The kids really gravitated to the costumed characters," he said, adding that the girls preferred Dora, Princess Belle and Aloha Ashley, while the boys clustered around Batman and the "Blue Karate Turtle."

Judging by the long lines at the food booths, those vendors seemed to be doing well.

"There was a wide variety of things to eat, something for everyone," Hazelman said.

Parking was, as always, "at will," but there were shuttles buses to and from the Hillcrest Community Center on Macopin Road, the West Milford Recreation Center on Cahill Cross Road, and the old A&P that kept things flowing. Traffic alerts also kept motorists updated.

Still, Hazelman said, there's "room to grow" in the logistics department, maybe more shuttles.

Despite the organizers' request that festgoers leave their four-footed pals (with the exception of service animals) at home, some folks brought their pets along. There were no incidents to report on that front, Hazelman said.

Looking ahead to next year's event, he said that there may be more costumed characters mingling with crowds.

"So there's more of a chance for them to pose for pictures with people," he added.

Organizers are putting out a call for more volunteers, for the fest committee and for the day of the event.

Sometimes vendors and others leave a little earlier than 5 p.m. and it can cause a bit of a jam, Hazelman said.

More volunteers at the end of the day would help the fest have "more control over those exiting."

Describing the fest's continued success, Hazelman said: "West Milford again took note of the township's beauty and community spirit enjoyed the second Saturday of every October."

The committee is also always looking for feedback from the public.

To make suggestions for improving the fest experience, email

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