Evansville’s Fall Festival Was Originally a One Night Only Halloween Festival
Before it became the spectacle that we know today, the Fall Festival actually began as a Halloween celebration.
West Side Nut Club Fall Festival
Every year Franklin Street shuts down to traffic to house more than 100 food booths, and dozens of rides, to celebrate the Fall Festival. The Fall Festival is a huge fundraiser annually for hundreds of nonprofits and is known for having countless unique food options. In fact, the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival draws in more than 200,000 people annually! That's a lot of people! But everything has to start somewhere, and before the Fall Festival was the massive street festival we know today, how did it start? Let's take a step back in time, shall we?
A Halloween-Themed Beginning
More than a century ago the west side of Evansville had played host to 3 year successful years of Halloween festivals, so in 1921 after these successful festivals, a group of businessmen formed an organization to continue the duties of putting on these successful festivals, and more for the community.
“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…”
Thus began the Fall Festival. The first-ever West Side Nute Club Fall Festival was actually billed as a Halloween Night, Halloween Carnival, masked ball, one-night event. Of course, the event went over very well and was wildly popular.
The first West Side Nut Club Fall Festival was billed as a Halloween Night, Halloween Carnival, masked ball and even one Nut Clubber compared it to the Mardi Gras. The event was a one night affair and consisted of a parade of costumed people that started at 8:00 p.m. followed by a Halloween Mask Ball lasting until 11:30. The crowd was estimated at 25,000.
Imagine the first year of an event, and that event brings in 25,000 people. What a huge success!
World War II Impacts the Fall Festival
Now after the massive success of the first Fall Festival, the event continued annually until World War II. During the war, the festival was halted, so it did not happen from 1943-1945. Once the Fall Festival started back after the war, the festival continued to grow each year.
Non-Profits Get Involved
The introduction of non-profit booths at the Fall Festival began in the 1950s, and as the festival grew, so did the ride offerings.
During the 1950’s the Festival started growing quite rapidly. Non-profit organizations are first mentioned as having booths on Franklin St. The Amateur Hour started in 1950. Big name entertainers were brought in during the ’55, ’56 & ’57 Festivals. Miller Amusement was contracted & brought in more & bigger rides in 1958.
For more than a century, the West Side Nut Club Fall Festival has been a part of Evansville, and every year the festival continues to grow. This year the 102nd annual Fall Festival will take place from October 2nd, through October 7th, and you bet we will see you out there!