Hundreds flock to first Foothills Fall Festival for family fun


Patrons at the Foothills Festival in Jacksonville Thursday could enjoy riding a vertical wheel or a horizontal wheel, among other attractions, in the Pete Mathews parking lot.

JACKSONVILLE — Jaylene Compton and her family moved to Jacksonville in time to attend an inaugural fall celebration of her new city.

“We actually just moved here,” Compton said at the Foothills Fall Festival Thursday evening, watching her toddler, Cabella, as her husband and five other children enjoyed some of the myriad carnival-type activities and games. “It’s a good introduction to the area. I love it.”

The inaugural festival, organized as a joint effort by the city of Jacksonville and Jacksonville State University, was held on a drizzly Thursday evening in the parking lot of the school’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.

A large, light-flashing Ferris wheel greeted hundreds of guests, as did other traditional carnival rides, inflatables and games. Lines of attendees snaked through the wet pavement next to the Ferris wheel and rides called Sizzler and Frog Hopper. 

Vendors of goods and grub greeted attendees seeking fewer thrills, such as offered by a bingo tournament and cornhole competition. Tents bordered the portion of the parking lot that still could hold cars, housing vendors of everything from fine art to fast food. Another tent row lined the edge of JSU’s soccer field with ring toss, basketball, and football games.

Compton and her young daughter babysat a basketball won from one of the game booths as they awaited the possibility of more well-earned prizes.

“They’re all having a blast,” Compton said. “They’ve done all the rides, they’ve played all the games. We’ve just been out here having a good time.”

Animals from camels to miniature horses were part of a petting zoo, and an outdoor classroom exhibit showed off slithering snakes, venomous and otherwise to the braver animal lovers.

The festival was designed as a kickoff to the holiday season, with proceeds from vendor fees and beer tent sales split between the Jacksonville Christian Outreach Center and JSU’s food bank. 

A firework display was set to cap off the event at about 7:30 p.m.