YMCA of Southwest Michigan to host Fall Festival

NILES — Costumes, games, hayrides and pumpkin racing are only a few of the activities that children and their families will get to participate in during the annual Fall Festival at the YMCA of Southwest Michigan, 905 N. Front St., Niles.

The free community event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27. This year’s festival is a partnership between the city of Niles, Niles District Library, Elks Club and Niles Noon Optimists. In addition to multiple activities at the YMCA, children can take a hayride the at Niles Elks Lodge, where there will be a safe trick or treat event. Prizes will be available for winners of the costume contest.

The traditional event typically draws between 200 to 300 people to visit the YMCA of Southwest Michigan and take part in festival activities.

This year’s event is co-chaired by YMCA employees Barb Daniels and Gail Durm. Both Durm and Daniels said their goal was to create a safe place where children and their families could participate in activities and get in the spirit of fall.

“I think it will be a lot of fun,” Durm said. “[I hope they get] a sense of community.”

She said the aim is to make the event more than about collecting candy, but rather about participating in “old-fashioned” and “down home” fall fun.

“There’s no cost, you just come in and get your costume and get your face painted,” Durm said. “It’s a chance for children to meet other children and parents to meet other parents that all have the same goals in safety.

According to Daniels, hosting a free festival is a tradition for many YMCAs across the country. The YMCA of Southwest Michigan, formerly the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, has hosted their Fall Festival since 2009.

The festival will also include the seventh annual Great Pumpkin Race, which is hosted by the Niles Noon Optimist. Those who compete in the contest decorate and engineer a pumpkin to race downhill behind the YMCA. Children infant to 12 years old can participate. Winners will be awarded for the following pumpkin decoration categories: cutest, scariest, funniest, most heroic and most creative. Axels and wheel kits are available for $10 at the YMCA and Niles District Library.

Daniels said the festival is ideal for those looking for some family fun.

“It is a safe place to be,” Daniels said.