|West Side Nut Club Fall Festival|
(first full week of October)
|Organised by||West Side Nut Club|
The West Side Nut Club Fall Festival is an annual event held the first full week of every October on Franklin Street in Evansville, Indiana, and is organized by the West Side Nut Club. The festival features over 136 food booths run and operated by not-for-profit groups in the region. It features an eclectic variety of food, particularly both traditional and unique fried food. The festival also includes numerous forms of entertainment, carnival attractions, amateur talent competitions, and a parade.
Event organizers estimate that each night of the week-long festival draws between 100,000 and 150,000 people, making it one of the largest street festivals in the United States. Although he lacked statistics to support his claim, radio host Paul Harvey once called it the second-largest street festival in the U.S., in terms of attendees, behind only the New Orleans Mardi Gras.
After three successful years of holding Halloween type Festivals, a handful of West Side businessmen decided, in 1921, to form an organization that would handle the duties of putting together successful Fall Festivals and "to initiate, promote, and support any and all movements which are for the betterment of the West Side of Evansville, Indiana; also for the betterment of Evansville as a whole." The first West Side Nut Club Fall Festival was billed as a Halloween Night, Halloween Carnival, and masked ball. The event was a one night affair and consisted of a parade of costumed people followed by a Halloween Mask Ball. The crowd was estimated at 25,000.
After the first Festival, the Nut Club continued with the one or two night affairs until after World War II. During most of those Festivals, the Nut Club coordinated the decorations, agricultural exhibits, and parades while the Burdette Post of the American Legion sponsored street dances. In 1940, organizers incorporated three rides (Ferris wheel, merry-go-round & mini autos) and an exhibit of caged animals, concessions, and circus acts. In 1942 the rides were moved to the library park on Franklin Street.
Due to World War II, the Festival was halted from 1943 to 1945. In 1946, the festival commenced again and for the first time extended most of the week from Monday through Saturday. During the 1950s the festival experienced substantial growth. Non-profit organizations began selling food in booths on Franklin Street. In 1952, Howell Baptist Church put up its first booth which, according to church sources, served the festival's first Pronto Pups. The 1950s also ushered in larger rides and more well known entertainers.
The festival food is marked by an eclectic variety of fried things and unusual edibles, along with a few healthier choices. Common offerings include corn dogs and pronto pups. Other notable food options include chocolate-covered crickets, brain sandwiches, alligator stew, fried Girl Scout cookies, Donut Bank burgers and fried Kool-Aid. Common drink options include original and cherry apple cider, lemon shake-ups, soda, and water. The food booths are typically open from lunch until 9pm.
The Fall Festival commences on a Sunday and runs all week. Each day includes several music and dance performances by local bands and youth. Saturday, the last day of the festival, is marked by a large parade. The parade is large and draws substantial crowds each year. After winning two Olympic gold medals, Evansville native Lilly King asked to be grand marshal of the parade; the request was granted. King noted, "When you make the Olympic team you get to grand marshal the Fall Festival parade. Fall Festival is a holiday. It's my favorite holiday. As a Westsider, I have to love Fall Festival."