Commissioners clarify stance on cancelled fall festival

Event’s return expected for 2022, with philosophical changes to format.

While the traditional fall festival and craft fair in Haddonfield will not proceed as planned in 2021 because of internal and external factors, borough commissioners have not ruled out a return in 2022 with a different format or vibe. 

The day-long celebration along Kings Highway, scheduled for a Saturday morning and afternoon around the middle of October, was last held in 2019. Last year, it was one of the many events scuttled by COVID restrictions. 

Commissioners decided last month to officially withdraw plans for this October. In response to a query about public notification from resident Roger Jacobs, a member of the Haddonfield Republican Committee as well as the 65 Club, members of the governing body clarified their position during the Aug. 16 open public session.

“Yes we did, last month, decide to cancel the fall festival, or rather, not hold it this year. At the time that was largely because … Arlene Fiorelli has since retired … “ stated Mayor Colleen Bianco Bezich. “And she had long been the individual who really took the brunt of putting that all together and doing the work.”

Bezich added that public feedback on the festival itself revealed a perception that the event  lacked an identity. Now, with the presence of the Delta variant of COVID in the region, commissioners felt uncomfortable about timing, so the decision was made collectively to shut down and reconvene in the future to discuss a new concept going forward. 

When Jacobs asked if October 2022 would be a firm return date, Bezich countered that any outdoor event “might look different than the fall festival of years past,” citing the fact that COVID has all but quashed the concept of outdoor craft fairs due to the challenges vendors face in selling their products when a mass influx of customers is not possible.

“It’s about trying to retain the identity and freshness of what we’re offering. I use the example of the car show, which has maintained its identity,” noted Commissioner for Revenue and Finance Kevin Roche. 

Roche added that commissioners believed the old event “moved in a way that plateaued,” and that they would have to think about what sort of concrete benefit holding an all-day outdoor event with so many individual organizations and outside vendors could bring to the community and the business district. 

“So, trying to marry the two is equally important and we’d love to have a decent strategy to ensure that it’s successful,” he noted. “Not just for the vendors, but also for the merchants.”

Commissioner for Public Works Frank Troy backed up his colleagues when he opined that the festival would have been, at best, something just held together without a solid leader like Fiorelli to guide its logistics. 

“The great news is there are a lot of activities that are happening in the fall,” he offered. “The car show is one, the Sept. 11 memorial will be another one. I’m looking forward, once we get some leadership in place there, to what the future holds for the fall downtown.”