Highlights from Autumn Fest 2019

Weather affects attendance, but not community spirit

by Melanie Jongsma

LANSING, Ill. (October 14, 2019) – If temperatures hadn’t been in the 70s for the four days prior to Autumn Fest 2019, the 50-degree, then 40-degree temps on Friday might have been easier to bear. But the transition from shirt-sleeves to parkas was just too sudden, and only the most hardy Lansing residents—and the parents of kids in the Memorial Junior High Band—and the most loyal fans of hometown hero Brian Grilli—came out for opening night.

With attendance so low, food and marketplace vendors struggled to sell enough goods to cover their booth rentals. Still, the general feeling among fest-goers was a mixture of pride, grit, and fun.

Friday, October 11

It was still raining as Autumn Fest opened at 4:00pm, and family members huddled around the stage to support the Memorial Junior High School Band. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Cadillac Groove had earned some new fans when they played during the Wednesday-night concert series this summer, and they returned for Autumn Fest. Some chose to enjoy their set from the Fox Pointe pavilion. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
OooWee Chicken and Ribs (18155 Roy Street, Lansing) brightened up the evening by stringing lights in their booth. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Taqueria La Soga (19267 Burnham Avenue, Lansing) sold a few tacos Friday evening. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The American Legion was a newcomer to Autumn Fest 2019. They sold hamburgers, hot dogs, and corn, with the profits going to help veterans. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
TF South alum Brian Grilli greeted friends and fans before taking the stage for his set. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Brian Grilli entertained for about an hour before needing to take a break and warm up his fingers. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Between sets Brian Grilli chatted with friends and posed for photos. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Grilli ended his show with the song that has endeared him to Lansing, “My Hometown”:

To the crowd that remained for the whole show, Grilli extended an invitation to join him at Kilroy’s (3502 Ridge Road, Lansing) for an after-party. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Saturday, October 12

The sun was crisp and bright enough on Saturday to draw increased attendance to Day 2 of Autumn Fest, though vendors again struggled—this time with winds that were strong enough to blow their tents over and twist the frames. The day began at 8:00am with a Copper Muggers Pancake Breakfast at the American Legion and continued until 11:00pm when Latin Satin Soul closed their three-hour performance.

From left: Mayor Patty Eidam, Village Clerk Vivian Payne, and Kathy Fish welcomed guests to the Copper Muggers Pancake Breakfast at the American Legion (18255 Grant Street, Lansing). (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Trustee Maureen Grady-Perovich (back right) had a table set up with Honor Flight information to share with veterans. Grady-Perovich is a veterans advocate and an Honor Flight Chicago volunteer. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The Copper Muggers are a Lansing-based group that helps raise funds for Lansing needs. They provided all the food and manpower for the pancake breakfast so the American Legion Auxiliary could sell tickets and direct those profits toward helping veterans. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
A few LARC clients started their day by enjoying pancakes and supporting veterans. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Members of the TF South football team enjoyed a cheap, filling breakfast—and helping veterans. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
From left: TF South students Brandi, Qayla, and Sunni helped serve beverages and clean up place settings at the breakfast. Brandi and Sunni are part of the cheer team, and Qayla is in the band. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The Autumn Fest Marketplace opened at 10:00am Saturday, and shoppers walked up and down Henry Street looking for unique items. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)

Each year, Autumn Fest includes a Military Tribute that gives Lansing an opportunity to honor its veterans. Introducing the Military Tribute for Autumn Fest 2019, Jean McCall put Saturday’s cold weather in context:

The Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard posted colors, and then TF South students Gary Hunley and Aija Sims sang the National Anthem. They were accompanied by Brian Grilli, who is himself a Navy veteran:

Jean McCall had gathered photos from over 100 veterans and compiled them into a PowerPoint presentation that played during the military tribute. She hopes to include even more veterans next year. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Brian Grilli explained his feelings toward the popular song “Proud to be an American” before asking Mike Sanow to join him in singing it:

Throughout the afternoon, guests shopped and enjoyed the sunshine. (Photo: Jennifer Yos)

At 2:00pm, Double Treble Dueling Pianos put on a concert in the pavilion:

Nawty took the stage at 5:00pm for a two-hour concert that included a wide range of music, “from Motown on up to current chart toppers,” as their Facebook page says. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Throughout the weekend, guests could commemorate their Autumn Fest experience in the photo booth. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Before the closing act on Saturday night, Leo Valencia, president of the Lansing Association for Community Events (LACE) called all LACE volunteers and Village officials to the stage to thank them for all the planning, effort, and time that goes into Autumn Fest each year. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Latin Satin Soul, another favorite from the summer series, took the stage at 7:30pm. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
A re-energized crowd danced until Fest-end, 11:00pm. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Sunday, October 13

The weather improved again for Sunday, the final day of Autumn Fest 2019. The sun was warm, and though the winds were cold, they were not as brutal as the day before. Marketplace vendors opened for business at 10:00am, food vendors began selling at 11:00am, and the Kids Zone opened at 12:00pm.

Also at noon, Mariachi Estrellas de Chicago took the stage:

Food vendors were busy most of the afternoon. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Na-Cho-Citi was a popular choice because of their unique flavor options and their generous portions. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
The warmer temps made it a fun day to play in the Kids Zone. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Jerica Paliga took the stage at 3:00pm, the final performance at Autumn Fest 2019. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Though clouds rolled in again during mid-afternoon, Fest-goers stayed until 5:00pm to enjoy the music. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

While the weather for Autumn Fest 2019 was unfortunate and definitely impacted attendance, the feeling was positive among attenders who braved the temperatures. In fact, Brian Grilli called it “one of the best trips I’ve had.” He posted a thank-you on Facebook that summarizes what a community celebration is all about:

I’ve gotten a little time to rest and reflect on my time in my hometown of Lansing, IL, and Chicago. I have to say it was one of the best trips I’ve had. My wife Kristen got to meet family and friends of mine for the first time as well as see the city and experience some things from my childhood. I want to thank Village of Lansing, Fox Pointe, The Lansing Journal, Boz Hot Dogs, Lansing Kilroys, Lansing Autumn Fest, Michael J. Sanow, Carol Koehler Bollacker, Jennifer Koch Polley, Melanie Jongsma, Jeff Schoettle, Scott Kintz, and all the volunteers and workers that made Autumn Fest a success!! It was colder than heck, and playing in 40 degrees is quite the experience! Thanks my family and friends and to all who came out and braved the cold Lanny Grilly, Lisa Nelson, David Grilly, Joseph Gatz, Gail Gatz Batinick, Irene Gatz, Lauren Roeda, Dawn Rucinski Graham, Carol Wojciehowski Angarola, Dan Dominiak, Kurt Von Tuttlingen, Rob Turtle Reich, Rodger Reich, and to the band that back me up who had a few days and no rehearsal and KILLED it…John Guerrini, Stephan A. Kohnke, Jerome Walker. Thank you for the love and hospitality!

Brian Grilli (center) thanks his hometown friends, family, and fans in an October 14 Facebook post.
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