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Autumn is here! Take it all in. Drink cider, go apple picking and watch the leaves fall. Speaking of which, here are the best places to see colorful autumn leaves. USA TODAY

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Autumn is the time when nature plays artist in an abundant display of the changing seasons. It’s also the time when the town of Thurmont holds its annual Catoctin Colorfest.

What originally began as a humble nature walk back in 1963 evolved into a two-day juried arts and crafts show — and now a longstanding community tradition — every second weekend in October. More than 200 of the nation’s finest arts and crafts vendors take part in this highly acclaimed event, which has been deemed the largest craft show on the East Coast and has been ranked among the top 35 shows in the nation by Sunshine Artist Magazine.

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This year marks Colorfest’s 53rd season as a mainstay tradition. All events and activities will be held at the Thurmont Community Park and Guardian Hose Co. Activities Grounds on Oct. 8 and 9. There’s no shortage of things to see and do.

Artisans and demonstrations

Around 245 juried artists and artisans will participate this season. While most are faithful longtime returning vendors, there will also be about 40 first-time participants. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it here among the various offerings of art, floral, décor, furnishings and endless other examples of unique craftsmanship and handmade goods.

Enjoy onsite crafter demonstrations, like broom making by Schmuck Broom Shop, wooden flower carving with Craig and Tim Wesner, fused glass work demos and countless other spectator entertainments.

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Entertainment

The crafter demonstrations are entertaining indeed, but Catoctin Colorfest will also present various live entertainment performances throughout the weekend. Elower-Sicilia Productions (ESP) Dance School will be returning this year along with Thurmont Regional Library’s Big Bubbles. The Catoctin High School Marching Band and possible other community performers will also be entertaining at various spots around town.

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Food

From traditional quick service festival favorites to exclusive one-of-a-kind cuisine (including international offerings), even the pickiest eater will find satisfaction with the diverse food options here. New this year, Chic Enterprises, LLC will be serving up crepes. Thurmont Ambulance is back with their renowned apple dumplings — a great fan favorite. Other participants this season will include Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, Thurmont Lions Club, St. Peter the Apostle Parish and several others. While crafter booths don’t open until 9 a.m., many food vendors will begin serving up breakfast at 7 a.m.

Onsite amenities

Delicious food means you never have to leave the grounds. Other onsite amenities make it easy to stay as well, including ATM access machines and even be a U.S. Post Office setup featuring Colorfest’s own postal cancellation and postage stamps.

A complimentary shuttle service will run between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on both days, stopping at all designated Stop and Park locations throughout the community. Handicap-accessible buses are also available.

Benefits to the community

The nonprofit Catoctin Colorfest, Inc. committee is deeply committed to serving the community. They award two $1,000 scholarships and one $1,500 scholarship annually to graduating seniors at Catoctin High School and support the Food Bank, Thurmont Community Ambulance and the Guardian Hose Co. Proceeds from the festival also benefit various organized family-friendly community events and programs, seasonal offerings, the children’s library, community gardens and so much more. Last year alone, Catoctin Colorfest brought in close to $17,000 to give back to the community.

This weekend-wide festival also gives various other nonprofits and local businesses throughout town a chance to benefit. For some participants, Colorfest serves as a major fundraising event. With the surge of visitors in town for the weekend, surrounding inns, restaurants and stores also experience an increase in business.

If you go:

What: Catoctin Colorfest

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8 and Sunday, Oct. 9

Where: Community Park Road, Thurmont, MD 21788

Cost: Admission is free

More information: colorfest.org

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