Maple Leaf Festival showcases community

Story by Mykaela Cross, Assistant Editor

Inspired by Dr. Ivan Boyd, a former biology professor at Baker University, the Maple Leaf Festival has been an annual tradition in the Baldwin City community since 1958.

This year’s festivities kick off on Saturday with a parade that includes floats, children’s competitions and marching bands and then it progresses into a time of community activities, craft booths, food and other vendors and carnival rides for children. The celebration continues on Sunday with more activities, merchandise and food.

The festival, named after the colorful, changing maple leaves, takes place on the third full weekend of October every year. Boyd chose this time of year to come together as a community because of the color changes maple leaves typically exhibit during the week and the desire to celebrate the harvest season.

Much of Maple Leaf’s old purpose is lost to both tourists and locals as the city is flooded with visitors for the weekend. People of all ages from all over the country commute to Baldwin City in order to experience the festivities.

Director of Campus Visit Experience Cheryl McCrary has experienced the festival every year since she was a student at Baker. Though the festival was not always focused as much on craft booths and such, McCrary does see benefits to continuing to host the event.

“I think Maple Leaf puts Baldwin on the map so to speak. Our city is beautiful and this event brings thousands of people here to enjoy it,” McCrary said in an email. “It also gives Baldwin and Baker organizations a chance to fundraise and get outside dollars. With this many people in Baldwin in two days, there is great opportunity for groups to raise money.”

McCrary’s favorite part of the festival used to be watching her children in the competitions during the parade, but now she enjoys going to the festival on Sunday and browsing the booths once the crowd has thinned.

“My favorite tradition is buying one snowman ornament or decoration each year,” she said. “I go around and look at everything and then I try to remember where my favorite snowman item was and go back and buy it.”

The two-day event closes off certain streets in Baldwin City in order to make room for parking for the droves of people who flock to attend the largest community celebration in the area. With the same happening this year, some students feel they’re torn in between loving and hating the event.

Junior MacKenzie Sammons grew up in Wellsville and has been attending the festival for the last eight to 10 years. Having experienced the festivities as a tourist and a local, she finds herself in a love-hate relationship with Maple Leaf.

“I definitely tell everyone it is something that you should experience at least once. It’s a great opportunity to become a part of the Baldwin community,” Sammons said. “But if you didn’t like it the first time, not much changes year to year.”

Sammons most looks forward to the food and crafts from the various booths around the festival.

“If you’re locked up doing homework all day and you time it just right, you can get food before the rush hour hits. There are a lot of options and they’re not really that expensive either,” Sammons said. “A lot of the crafts they have are really great to look at and they’re really unique. In Midwestern Kansas we find out that we’re pretty crafty people. It’s nice to see the things that people come up with to sell.”

Although she finds there are a lot of benefits to having the festival, Sammons also finds that there are several setbacks to having such a big event near campus. In addition to limited parking, problems with cell phone service and intruders are also issues.

“All of the cell towers crash and there’s no cell service. You have a town that’s only used to carrying a couple thousand people trying to carry tens of thousands of people,” Sammons said. “It’s also kind of awkward when strangers are trying to get into the building I live in. People think the buildings are open public restrooms and they’re not.”

With its ups and downs, Maple Leaf is an old community tradition in which locals and tourists come together to appreciate the beauty of the Baldwin City area and the prospects of crafty creations, and will continue to appear in the years to come.