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Crafts, parade, road race highlight city's annual September festival

DULUTH -- Gather the troops because on Saturday and Sunday, Duluth's annual Fall Festival is invading the streets at the intersection of West Lawrenceville and Main with hundreds of vendors selling arts and crafts, a parade filled with local organizations and a 5K road race for athletes in the community, and that's just the beginning.

Since 1983, the city of Duluth has hosted the festival on the last weekend of September, which has grown larger over the years.

The event always begins on Saturday with the grand parade which marches at 10 a.m. down North Peachtree Street to Duluth Highway, turns onto Buford Highway to end at the intersection at Main Street. This year's grand marshal is PGA golfer and Duluth resident Stewart Cink with the honorary grand marshal Dr. Miles Mason III of Mason Primary Care.

"The invitation was sent out and he (Cink) actually accepted," Festival Chairman Wayne Herman said. "We were afraid that he wouldn't be able to come because of tournaments and such, but he will be in the front of the pack Saturday morning."

Elementary, middle and high schools in the city will be representing school spirit along with local elected officials like Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner Richard Steele, U.S. Congressman Rob Woodall and Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash.

After the parade ends, the opening ceremony begins to kick-start the weekend. There are more than 250 vendors with booths camping out in the streets, a silent auction and fried festival food.

Once again, there is a carnival stock piled with rides, games and attractions suitable for all walks of life. There are fun slides, roller coasters, a merry-go-round and plenty of rides to make you dizzy, like the Tilt-a-Whip.

"This is our second year having the carnival," Herman said. "We'd never done it in the past, but it did well and had a great response from the public, so we brought it back."

Ladies, there is one area that your gentleman may want to spent some time: the Man's Corner. This is where men can talk sports, power tools, fitness, cars and lawn equipment. Those with a green thumb should stop by to talk with special guest, the Georgia Gardener Walter Reeves. He can help you with anything from tips with crab grass to finding plants to put in your yard to attract hummingbirds.

Early Sunday morning, hundreds of runners, joggers and quick walkers join together for the 5K road race through downtown Duluth. Last year, 439 people participated in the race and the ages ranged from 7 years old to 90. The best time was made by Thomas Aliff, 31, finishing in first place with 19 minutes and 12 seconds.

From start to finish, the Duluth Fall Festival is a celebration of the community and the people who live here.

"It's a really wonderful down-home family atmosphere that people really like," Herman said. "I hear so much from people who move away for college and things, then come back to Duluth just for the fall festival."

Admission is free. Proceeds from the festival fund improvements in downtown Duluth.