In June of 1960, then shoe merchant J. William Alexander proposed to the directors of the Martinsville Chamber of Commerce that an annual fall festival be started. His idea was to take advantage of the tourist traffic, as well as call attention to the beauty of the fall foliage in Morgan County.
The chamber took on the project, and at an early organizational meeting, Mr. Alexander was named committee chairman, with Mrs. Raymond Booty secretary and Max Kivett treasurer.
Organizations were called on for help and various individuals were placed in charge of each event.
The first parade chairmen were Col. Albert E. Allen and William Wehrle. The parade was sponsored and marshaled by the Kiwanis Club, with funding provided through the festival.
The first festival included a dance, Girl Scout entertainment, activities for the homecoming football game, a teen record hop, square dance, card party, flower, antique and art shows, open house for churches and the parade. There was also a carnival on the square.
The Festival Hostess (or queen) contest was not started until the second festival in 1961, when Barbara Eisenberg See won the crown. The contest continued until 2001.
The first festival board was composed of William Alexander, Albert Tousey, Stewart Wise and Leon Clark. Betty Nuun became the secretary after Mrs. Booty and served for the next twelve years. Mr. Alexander served as president until 1965.
While women had worked with the festival from its beginning as secretary and event chairs, it wasn't until the spring of 1971 that the men on the board decided it was time to add a woman to the list.
The first was Mrs. Nunn. In August of 1971, Roseanne Meredith was added. Since that time, several women have been invited to become board members.
Today, approximately 25 people serve on the board of directors and the festival remains well-supported by the community.
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