LEAVENWORTH — After a year away, and a consistent worry by some that the event would be canceled altogether, the Washington State Autumn Leaf Festival returns to Leavenworth Friday.

Coinciding with the calendar flip from summer to fall, the annual festival celebrates the autumn leaves’ color change. This year’s three-day event will feature a circus, car show, food, a drill competition and a parade among other festivities.

The tradition continues.

“The Autumn Leaf Festival, which was Leavenworth’s first festival and has been a part of the fabric of this town since 1964, is very special and it is great to see it return this year,” said Jessica Stoller, marketing and public relations director for the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce. “We at the Chamber of Commerce certainly appreciate the hard work of the Autumn Leaf Festival folks who are navigating through these changing times and probably have had to make some adjustments to the way they are doing things this year to still bring this small-town celebration back to Leavenworth.”

As the first large-scale event in Leavenworth since the start of the pandemic more than 18 months ago, Stoller said organizations have adapted their events to allow for more safety precautions.

Marggie Simmons, an Autumn Leaf Festival organizer, said several changes have been made to this year’s festival. Saturday’s parade route has been altered to allow onlookers on the side of the road to better distance themselves from each other. This year’s parade will feature about 50 participants, which is only about half as many as a typical year.

“Because it’s a small group, we’re doing a small route,” Simmons said. “We’re going down to the middle of downtown so that people will be spread out more.”

Typically, the Autumn Leaf Festival Association annually participates in 12 parades and festivals throughout the state as part of the Northwest Hosting Association. Due to the pandemic, Leavenworth’s festival will only be the second of these festivals to take place.

The festival will also celebrate the 2021 Royal Lady of the Autumn Leaves, Penelope Carpenter.

Since the festival’s first year in 1964, the title has recognized a member of the community who goes above and beyond in their support and dedication to Leavenworth, though the exact criteria are kept secret.

“To be chosen as a royal lady in this community, it’s a huge honor,” Carpenter said. “To have been chosen as one of them was clearly one of the most wonderful things that can ever happen to a woman living in Leavenworth.”

This is Carpenter’s second year in a row receiving the honor. She was selected last year before all the events were canceled due to the pandemc.

Carpenter and her husband have been involved with the Washington State Autumn Leaf Festival Association since moving to the area. She even served as president or the organization for a period. Carpenter has also served as president of the Leavenworth Rotary Club and volunteered for various groups in the town.

A Leavenworth resident for 35 years, she recently moved to Oregon to be closer to family, though she and her family will be present at this year’s festivities.

For a schedule of the festivities, go to wwrld.us/AutumnLeafFestival.

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Mitchell Roland: (509) 661-5201

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