For over 50 years, Bedford’s Fall Foliage Festival has attracted both visitors and locals alike. What started as an idea to bring more people to the community has blossomed into an event attended by over 70,000 guests each year.
The festival founders included Doc and Angie Gordon, Kal Hine, Don Hershberger, Edd Flynn, and Wendy Cox. This group of six would plan the event over several meetings at the Fort Bedford Inn. The main entertainment was decided to be the attendance of special guest Miss Pennsylvania and an antique car parade. Local churches, 4-H groups, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and community craftsmen were recruited to assist with the event and sell local goods.
Miss Pennsylvania was escorted during her stay by Dorothy Studebaker, wife of Mayor E.G. Studebaker. Dorothy would become the festival’s chairperson for many years to come until passed down to Janie Barnhart and Irma Garlock.
Tables of local wares were set up and events were held all over town, including a showcase of Bedford County Weaponry by the Shawnee Rangers at the Fort Bedford Park. Miss Pennsylvania hosted what would become the first annual festival luncheon at the Hoffman Hotel. Store front windows were decorated to showcase the season and highlight the history of the Bedford Area.
Over the upcoming years the festival would grow to include a wagon train, covered bridge tours, square dancing, and an elaborate Harvest Ball. The town square would be busy with bake sales and book sales, while the smell of homemade apple cider and apple butter wafted about. Shopping was endless with a variety of quilts on display, a Craft and Christmas Fair, and stores offering an eclectic array of art, antiques, and jewelry.
Remaining true to tradition, the Festival is still organized by a small, devoted committee of local volunteers. More than 400 exhibitors line the streets each October and while visitors may no longer find a wagon train or fiddle championship, the original Antique Car Parade is still a highlight for many and no storefront window goes undecorated.