Alexandra O’Neal, Correspondent
Despite a few sprinkles, the inaugural Foothills Fall Festival was a fun event for families and friends in the Jacksonville community.
The Pete Mathews Coliseum parking lot was transformed into a one-night festival on Thursday, November 21 and hundreds of residents flocked to the event, nearly overflowing the Coliseum parking lot.
The festival was packed with great food, local vendors and free activities. Except for concessions, the festival was entirely free of charge. Even the carnival-style games, which had prizes for lucky winners, were free.
The festival was a joint-initiative between the City of Jacksonville and Jacksonville State University to bring the campus and the community together to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season.
Organizers of the festival made sure to include something for everyone. For the younger attendees, there was a carrousel, a bouncy house, a slide and kid-friendly rides. For animal lovers, there was a petting zoo that had an adorable kangaroo, and a tent full of reptiles and amphibians. For foodies, there was a huge selection of carnival foods for sale, including cotton candy and funnel cakes. Beer was even sold at the Struts tent for those of age. For those on the hunt for Christmas gifts, there was an entire row of tents filled with local vendors, selling everything from screen-printed shirts to apple butter.
After sunset, the festival lit up with flashing color-changing lights from the various rides. The Ferris wheel, which was a crowd favorite, cast its glow on everything around. As children ran around with oversized stuffed animals, couples rode the Ferris wheel, and friends shared funnel cakes, it was a beautiful picture of community.
When the festival began to close down for the night, the sky erupted with fireworks and ended the event with an impressive show.
The festival was also a way for the City of Jacksonville and JSU to give back to the community. In addition to making the festival accessible to everyone regardless of age or income, 100 percent of the proceeds from vendor fees and alcohol sales were donated to the JSU Food Bank and Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center.
The JSU food pantry, operated entirely on donations, is located in the Sparkman Hall basement and provides food and hygiene products to students in need. The Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center also provides assistance to individuals in need in the Jacksonville area.