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Thorpe fests to return, with focus on business

Some of Jim Thorpe’s most popular events are making a comeback in 2021 after a year away due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among the returns will be the popular Fall Foliage Festival, which is confirmed for the weekends of Oct. 9-10, 16-17 and 23-24.

“We’re excited to return many of the traditional events,” Michael Rivkin of the Jim Thorpe Tourism Agency told borough council last week. “For Fall Foliage, we’re really going to be focusing on prioritizing the Jim Thorpe businesses and then Carbon County businesses as far as the vendors go. We’re working with the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corporation, and instead of 30 vendors, it’s likely going to be around 10.”

Rivkin said JTTA is also seeking unique nonfood vendors.

“In the past, we’ve had a photo booth that was pretty neat, so that’s the type of different thing we’re looking for,” he said. “Someone pressing cider on site and other things that are interactive with our visitors would be a great addition. The main thing is we want vendors that won’t necessarily be competitive with our merchants in town.”

The Fall Foliage Festival will have four music stages at the same locations as the past: the Josiah White Park gazebo, Mauch Chunk Opera House, Quarry Street and Race Street.

Satellite parking is planned for Sam Miller Field, but the Mauch Chunk Lake parking lot will likely not be utilized.

“We are working with Immaculate Conception Church to see if we could make some parking available there,” Rivkin said. “The Jim Thorpe Trolley will also be operating for Fall Foliage and that will be a big benefit.”

Last year, JTTA did not sponsor the official Fall Foliage Festival, but instead encouraged residents to patronize local businesses and “Fall In Love With Jim Thorpe,” a campaign to help boost the local economy.

Tourism has continued to thrive in Jim Thorpe throughout the more recent months of the pandemic and town officials are glad the streets are bustling.

“Jim Thorpe is very fortunate because we’re experiencing what many towns still are not,” Mayor Michael Sofranko said. “We’ve decided to move forward and try to keep that energy going and keep the appeal and cool factor that Jim Thorpe just magically has. When we see the crowds downtown, we don’t take them for granted. It’s a very special thing.”

Fall Foliage may draw the most visitors, but it won’t be the only opportunity to experience all the town has to offer.

Holiday magic will be back with the return of Olde Time Christmas on Dec. 4-5, 11-12 and 18-19.

“We’re going to have the tree lighting and we’re working to organize that alongside Santa’s arrival,” Rivkin said. “We will again have the goal of benefiting a local nonprofit with that event.”

JTTA’s Winterfest is confirmed for the weekend of Feb. 19-20, 2022, with the planned return of ice carving, wood carving and many of the other attractions.

Irish Fest, which JTTA started following the final Carbon County St. Patrick’s Day Parade several years ago, remains up in the air for 2022, according to Rivkin.

A horse-drawn buggy travels down historic Race Street in Jim Thorpe, possibly like a scene on the street from 100 years ago, during a past Fall Foliage Festival. TIMES NEWS FILE PHOTO