A two-day festival celebrating the heritage of Jackson County’s oldest community is fast approaching.
The 49th annual Fort Vallonia Days will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and fill Main Street in the small southern Jackson County community with people.
Conducted on the third weekend in October each year, Fort Vallonia Days is something that many look forward to attending each year. The event celebrates Vallonia, a French settlement established in the late 1790s.
As always, the festival will feature a wide array of activities for attendees, including the parade, craft booths, a variety of food, flea markets, music and entertainment for all ages and more.
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Fort Vallonia Days is one of the most prominent fall festivals in southern Indiana, drawing crowds estimated up to 30,000 in past years. The Fort Vallonia Museum will be open during the festival and is a must-see, full of historical items and memorabilia, organizers said.
Amanda Lowery, Fort Vallonia Days secretary and publicity chairwoman, said she loves everything about the festival.
“The parade is fun, the food is good and the craft booths are really nice. Plus, there are always treasures to be found at the flea market,” said Lowery, who lives in the small town of about 330 people.
“There’s just always an excitement in the air when the festival starts to roll into town,” she said. “The vendors show up, and there’s the hustle and bustle, and it’s all exciting.”
“There are a few changes for this year’s festival, as we will not be giving the flu shots this year or holding the blood drive due to scheduling issues.” Lowery said. “But we will be having Friday night entertainment, which is a new addition.”
Lowery has been a Vallonia resident for 15 years and has volunteered to help with the festival in a variety of capacities for at least five or more years on and off. She also is the Jackson County clerk.
Jackie Gibson, who also lives in Vallonia, is serving as president of the event for the third year in a row. She also has served as president in the past.
“We have such good committees that the job as president isn’t that difficult,” Gibson said. “We have committees that are formed, and they all do their job and what needs to be done for their part.”
Gibson and the festival officers start talking about plans and preparation in the summertime, and the committee chairmen just run with it, so it’s not a hard job for her at all, she said.
Gibson has been involved with Fort Vallonia Days for as long as she can remember because her parents, Gene and Mary Beth Johnson, both of Vallonia, were on the founding committee for the annual event.
Along with being president of the event, Gibson also is owner of Johnson Funeral Home in Vallonia. She is the fourth generation in her family to run the business.
The funeral home originated with her great-grandfather, Elmer Johnson, in 1912. The business then was passed down to her grandfather, Oris G. Johnson Sr., and then her father, Gene.
“The funeral home has been here for a little over 100 years,” Gibson said. “It is part of Vallonia’s history, too.”
Fort Vallonia Days was founded in 1968 and got off the ground during a Lions Club meeting when the discussion came up about the possibility of building a replica of the old fort.
The event drew about 3,000 people the first year, and it was a grand celebration, according to news reports at the time.
The purpose of the festival is to raise funds to help with the preservation of the fort, grounds and museum and to purchase more property to support the annual celebration.
“Anyone interested in helping with the festival in the future can contact me or any of the officers,” Gibson said. “Then we can see where there might be volunteer needs on one of the various committees.”
Next year will be the event’s 50th anniversary, and Gibson might form a special committee for that after this year’s festival is over.
“It might be nice to bring back some of the events we used to do in years past,” Gibson said. “But we need to wait until this year’s festival is over before we start talking about next year’s.”
Fort Vallonia Days treasurer Tammi Covert said the festival received a $400 promotional funding grant through the Jackson County Visitor Center.
The money will support advertising for the festival, and if the festival meets a lodging requirement, it will bring a number of visitors to spend the night in Jackson County. One of the visitor center’s goals is to market events that attract out-of-town visitors.
“We’ve met the $750 grant criteria for the past several years,” Covert said. “The funds go toward advertising our event, producing brochures or posters, websites, web ads and social media.”
8 p.m.: Country music with Marcus Pride
9 a.m.: Fort Vallonia trail ride (state riding permit required)
9 a.m.: Wes Hartley Memorial Muzzleloading Shoot
9:30 a.m.: Registration for the baby contest in the gym
10 a.m.: Baby contest in the gym
11 a.m.: Stars and Stripes Cloggers
Noon: Live music with the band Captain Backfire
1 p.m.: Parade
2 p.m.: Tomahawk and knife throw
3 p.m.: Live music with the band Captain Backfire
4 p.m.: Western dancing with the Country Kickers
5 p.m.: Karaoke with Tee Jay Entertainment
10 a.m.: Community church service in the gym, led by Vallonia Christian Church
Noon: Sparkles and Spurs country western dancers
Noon: Brownstown Exchange Club 5K run/walk registration
Noon: Team cornhole tournament (Sign-up starts at 10 a.m. beside the fort)
12:30 p.m.: Horseshoe pitch (Sign-up starts at noon)
1 p.m.: 5K run/walk
1:30 p.m.: Brownstown Central High School show choir
3 p.m.: Contemporary gospel music with Resurgence Worship
4 p.m.: Drawings
For information, visit fortvalloniadays.com.