PELL CITY -- There are, perhaps, very few places where, if one were so inclined, one might be able to grab some Chik-Fil-A and get an airbrushed tattoo while your dog is being bathed and groomed and the pair of you are watching a karate demonstration while the soul and Southern rock stylings of the Matt Harvey Band can be heard from a ways off. Or maybe you would like to pet a lizard, all while helping out the Pell City School system…
All of these things, and many, many more, were readily available in Lakeside Park in Pell City at Fall Frenzy 2018. Roughly 10,000 people came out Saturday to check it all out.
“The crowds have been great,” Pell City Mayor and co-organizer Bill Pruitt said. “Just watching the traffic, I’d say the numbers are about even with prior years. I would expect over 10,000 people this year.”
McSweeney Automotive is still the title sponsor, America’s First Credit Union sponsored the stage again and Aultman Dental sponsored the 5K run that kicked things off Saturday morning.
“There are a whole slew of other sponsors, that list gets pretty long,” Pruitt said. “I’d say we’ve probably got about the same number of sponsors as the last couple of years. When I laid out the booths, I think we had about 120 to 125 vendors, which is on a par with what he had the last two years. We might have picked up a couple of new vendors this year.”
Pruitt and his law partners at the time launched Fall Frenzy five years ago, before he was the mayor.
“We started out just wanting to help out the schools and give the community a great time,” he said. “As mayor, I’m really proud of what this says about our city. You’ve got college football today and the fall race at Talladega, but we’ve got 10,000 people turning out here to support our schools.”
It was too early Saturday afternoon to even estimate how much money this year’s event took in, but Pruitt said the last four have raised nearly $140,000 for Pell City schools.
“We’ve got a formula that we came up with to divide the money, but the projects are up to each individual school,” he said. “But we have managed to raise more than $140,000 for our classrooms so far.”
Each school, and several clubs and extracurricular groups from the various schools, had games and merchandise booths set up all over the park, which were also raising money for everything from sports teams to new playground equipment, and they hosted activities ranging from beanbag Operation to cup stacking, selling volleyball socks and sock organizers alike.
One of the new attractions this year was Yarbrough’s Educational Reptiles, an Eastaboga-based family business that has been taking snakes, lizards and other cold-blooded creatures around the southeastern U.S. for more than half a century.
Owner/Operator Rebecca Yarbrough Tucker said Saturday’s event “was one of the best festivals we’ve ever been to. It’s a lovely day, and we’ve been very busy.” There is an educational component that includes an array of indigenous snakes, including all of the venomous ones.
“We show people what they look like, where they live and what to do if you encounter one in the wild,” she explained. “We really save lives. We’ve also helped some people overcome their fear of snakes. They say the difference between fear and appreciation is knowledge.”
Snakes aside, the show also includes Spike, a surprisingly quick West African tortoise, and all sorts of lizards, including tegus, bearded dragons, rock iguanas, blue tongued skinks and black throated monitors. The latter are related to Komodo dragons, she said.
Various carnival rides and inflatables were also on hand Saturday, including a kid-friendly mechanical bull, and more food than one could safely shake a stick at, from national chains like Papa John’s, Chick-fil-A and Zaxby’s, who’s mascot could be seen tossing bean bags, to locally produced honey, every type of barbecue imaginable, and possibly the best popsicles in history. Every conceivable type of handcraft was purchase, from homemade scented candles to crocheted versions of everything that could possibly be crocheted to decorative initials and logos carved from wood, glass or PVC.