Each year in October my family makes the pilgrimage to Baldwin City, Kansas, for the Maple Leaf Festival. As the name suggests, the maple trees sprinkled throughout the city are beginning to wear their warm fall colors, and the bright leaves stand in contrast to the gray sky. The narrow streets of the city become congested with hundreds of cars filled with drivers valiantly attempting to find free parking. Once you leave your car (either hanging halfway off of the road into someone’s yard, or sitting in an overpriced parking lot), you head downtown to politely jostle your way up and down the rows of craft tents.

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As you make your way through the crowd, you will find baked goods, soaps, ceramics, yard ornaments, and my personal favorite, cinnamon roasted nuts.

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There are enough jams and jellies available to satisfy any sort of wild craving you might have!

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Every year, there is a certain street corner that plays host to dozens of pots of beautiful chrysanthemums.

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Admittedly, there are not many things there that I am tempted to buy, aside from my treasured nuts. Soap, however, regularly intrigues me. I am, without a doubt, a human led by her nose. “Do you smell that?” is a phrase commonly heard coming out of my mouth. (Kind of explains my cinnamon roasted nut obsession, now that I think about it.) I think that the process of mixing and molding soaps fascinates me because the creative process behind it reminds me slightly of baking. Choosing the colors and scents requires a discerning eye and a sharp nose, so I admire a person that can create a pleasing balance in their product.

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The festival takes place a little before Halloween, and as you are walking downtown you will come upon this house covered in spooky decor. Each year there are a few new pieces added to the collection, and there are always a small number of people collected around the yard taking in the spectacle.

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There was just one girl on this pony ride when we walked by, and she looked so contented with her perch I was drawn to snap a photo. Observe the serious mullet the sitting guy behind the horses is sporting. Yes, that sort of hairstyle still happens. No, I don’t understand why.

Baker University is located in Baldwin City, and it is housed on the cutest little campus that I have ever encountered. Pictured here are the greenhouse and a small chapel that sits on the campus.

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I grew up in a small town, and now that I live in the suburbs, returning to the small town atmosphere lends me a feeling of relaxation. The streets have very few traffic lights, and the houses aren’t perfect. They may have junk strewn around their yards, or the siding may be moldy and peeling. The wear and imperfections show a place that has been inhabited for a long period of time, being worn in like a shoe.  I always wonder how the inside of these homes might look. I imagine flattened paths in the carpet snaking their way throughout the house, and the walls sporting paint in colors no longer considered fashionable. Browns, pinks, and greens intermingle with wood paneling. It isn’t new, but it is loved. And it is the same with our traditions, is it not? We return to them time and again, but they still remain as precious to us as when we first came to know them.


Visit Your Local Fall Festival

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