James Rada, Jr.
The crowds have gone now, Colorfest 2015 is over, and life in Thurmont is back to normal. Many local non-profit organizations got their annual boost of funding from the estimated 125,000 people that crowded into Thurmont for the event that was held during the second weekend of October.
Although Colorfest started out as a nature walk fifty-two years ago, it has now grown into Maryland’s largest craft festival. It boasts 240 juried exhibits, plus many more vendors in and around the town. You could find original paintings, metal sculptures, hand-sewn quilts, homemade soaps, unique jewelry, and much more. Each year, there seems to be a new trend in which crafts are popular.
At one time, Colorfest had four juried areas: the Thurmont Community Park, Thurmont Middle School, the Guardian Hose Company Carnival Grounds, and the American Legion. Though the festival is as large as ever, Community Park remains the only juried area with 240 vendors.
Outside of the park, yard sales and non-juried craft shows have sprung up everywhere throughout the town. The town closes off parts of South Water Street and Frederick Road to accommodate the masses of people. The town government provides buses to shuttle visitors from various parking areas around town, including the schools.
The weather for this year’s Colorfest was near perfect, which brought out tens of thousands of visitors who clogged the streets throughout Thurmont. As a first-time vendor this year, but having attended many previous Colorfest festivals, I can tell you that the crowds this year were incredible. It was my best weekend ever for a festival.
The food vendors seemed to do particularly well with lines that seemed to stay steady with a dozen or more people in them. Colorfest represents the largest fundraiser of the year for many community organizations. The local school PTAs park cars at the schools and can raise around $4,000 in a weekend. The American Legion and Guardian Hose Company rent vendor spaces on their properties.
Over the years, Colorfest has donated more than $110,000 in scholarships to the local schools, made annual donations to the Guardian Hose Company and Thurmont Community Ambulance Company, purchased the town’s Christmas decorations, purchased playground equipment for town parks, sponsored family and children’s events, paid for the redecoration of the town office meeting room, and many more functions in support of the community.