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Turnout for city's autumn activities pleases organizers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The city of Charleston was busy last weekend with two seasonal events paralleling one another. FestivALL Fall and East End Main Street's HallowEast celebrated all things autumn and Halloween, as each played to different sensibilities for this time of year.

FestivALL Fall started off with a bit of a hitch, according to Director Larry Groce. Friday night's Fall Ball -- live music and dancing on the levee -- was accompanied by weather hovering around 40 degrees, he said. While Groce said the show was great, he acknowledged, "the weather hurt us."

"We have to consider in the future whether we want to continue to try to do things outdoors this time of year," Groce said.

In contrast, Groce said Sunday's weather bestowed good fortune upon attendees of the Carriage Trail Leaf Walk -- a walk in the city's woods with the accompaniment of actors and musicians.

"The weather was gorgeous," Groce said. "We had about 400 people there."

HallowEast saw its own share of success. East End Main Street Director Ric Cavender said he thought this year's event might have been the best yet.

New to HallowEast was the Run Like Hell Zombie 5K Run/Walk. More than 900 runners registered for the event, Cavender said. Organizers at TriStateRacer, a West Virginia-based race-timing group that assisted with the event, were impressed, according to Cavender.

"They couldn't believe we had that type of a turnout," Cavender said.

While Cavender didn't have exact attendance totals, he said more than $1,000 worth of art was sold at the horror-themed art show "ArtMares" and said that "the streets were packed. The bars were packed" for HallowEast's costume pub crawl.

"We've gotten a lot of positive feedback," Cavender said. "We're going to bring it all back next year."

HallowEast has grown each year since its start five years ago, Cavender said. Groce has the same hope for FestivALL Fall, which is still fairly new to Charleston. This year was its second.

"The only thing I can compare it to is the first few years of FestivALL itself," Groce said, referring to the 10-day-long summer festival featuring arts and entertainment.

In its infancy, FestivALL brought between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors to Charleston, Groce said. That number has since grown to more than 60,000.

"That took nine years," Groce said. "If you're going to start something new, then you've got to be persistent. [Then] people get the idea that something's going."

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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