Cancelled last year, West Milford Autumn Lights Fest returns on Oct. 8

The event that began as celebration of the first streetlights being installed in the business center of the township, will light up again. A new committee of 10 will organize it.

| 27 Jan 2022 | 07:33

The Autumn Lights Festival (ALF), was cancelled last year because of cost, lack of participation and safety concerns, but it will be back in the fall. The Township of West Milford Council, at their reorganization meeting earlier this month, adopted a resolution re-establishing an ALF committee, “for the purpose of undertaking and promoting an Oct. 8 (rain date Oct. 9) town-wide festival.”

“As a result of hard work and dedication invested by residents of the Township of West Milford, the Township has, for 24 years, been proud to host an annual Autumn Lights Festival,” the resolution went on. “The Council believes there is sufficient pride, interest and an adequate number of willing volunteers to organize and operate the 26th Autumn Lights Festival in 2022.”

The committee was established with the following provisions: There will be 10 members, one of whom shall be a liaison member of the Township Council, and nine citizen members. Councilwoman Ada Erik has already been appointed council liaison by vote of her colleagues on the council. The committee shall appoint one member from the nine citizen members to serve as chair of the committee.

If a committee member fails to attend three consecutive meetings, the chairperson will advise the appointing authority in order to have a replacement appointed. The members of the committee shall serve until Dec. 31. The continuing need for the ALF Committee shall be reviewed by the Township Council at its 2023 organization meeting and it shall cease to exist at that time unless re-established by Council resolution.

The event began in celebration of the first streetlights being installed in the business center of the township. Donna Wilson and Laurie Ardis were the initial chairpersons. At first, activities were in front of the municipal building and adjacent lawn areas. There have been changes in location decided by the various ALF Committees through the years.

The event in 2018 had a wet and chilly start. as over 125 vendors and organizations set up booths along a temporary route along Ridge Road from the firehouse to Union Valley Road. The location that year was selected due to work underway to repair a Marshall Hill Road bridge. Then West Milford officials and the 2021 ALF Committee jointly made the decision to cancel last year’s festival.

A statement from Administrator William Senande at that time said the committee took pride in putting the event on at no cost to the township or residents, but in 2021 those objectives could not be met nor could the quality of festival that people had come to enjoy be delivered. Hopes were expressed that conditions would change to enable the festival to be held this year.

“This difficult decision follows along with Warwick’s Applefest being cancelled and lagging participation and attendance at New Jersey Country Fairs,” Senande had said in his statement.

The announcement noted that for 25 years ALF was a safe, cost-free way for residents to get together and enjoy tasteful treats from many vendors on a scenic stretch of Union Valley Road. Last year, before the cancellation was announced, less than one quarter participation from previous food and general vendors was received. Sponsorship, a big key to the financial success of the event, was also lagging.

The administrator said that it had not been possible to secure a ride vendor and hands on activities like face painting, coloring books or pumpkin painting could be done. Hopes are to turn everything around with the ALF Committee this year producing an event to remember.