With Zombie Fest taking its undead army to Dewey Beach, Milton businesses were left with no fall event to help bring visitors downtown.
But town businesses and nonprofits came together to launch a new event: Fall Back Into Milton, which will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19.
The event will include trick-or-treating for all ages, costume contest, pumpkin painting, bicycle parade, DIY crafts, food and mead.
Milton’s business and community groups met Sept. 23 to discuss a path forward following the loss of Zombie Fest. The idea for a family-friendly downtown Milton event piggybacked off the second-anniversary event at Ogre’s Grove, which originally opened to coincide with Zombie Fest.
Justin Sinnott, owner of Ogre’s Grove, said he first approached Mary Knight, executive director of the historical society, about a new event when it was announced that Zombie Fest was moving out of downtown Milton this year.
“We’re all sad to see that go. I’m still having my anniversary event. We still have that stuff happening anyway. Why don’t we add to it?” Sinnott said.
The original idea was to call it “Milton Mash-Up,” because it was a mash-up of all the businesses together, but Kathryn Greig, a member of the Milton Garden Club and Women’s Club of Milton, suggested calling it “Fall Back Into Milton,” an homage to an earlier festival in Milton called “Fall Into Milton,” also at the historical society, with food and craft vendors, as well as face painting and hot cider.
The business owners agreed to the 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. time frame of the Ogre’s Grove anniversary, allowing anyone who wants to travel to Dewey for Zombie Fest to do so.
Events will kick off at Ogre’s Grove, 129 Union St., at 11 a.m., when the Eastern Shore Ghostbusters will bring their converted SUV, the ECTahOe1, for pictures. Costume contest registration, where participants will receive a map to go trick-or-treating downtown, will last until 12:30 p.m.
At noon, Josh Shockley from PLB Comics will be on-hand to show off and sell his artwork, including books, prints and buttons, and a free raffle with the winner receiving a sketch from Shockley’s comic series, “John The Swamp Dude.”
Judging for the costume contest will start at 2 p.m., with first prize to include gift cards from local businesses.
At 2:30 p.m., Johnny Rags Music and his student, Abby Stinar, will play Halloween songs on the saxophone.
Meanwhile, across the street at the Lydia Cannon Museum, there will be cookie decorating with Suburban Farmhouse, face and pumpkin painting by the Milton Garden Club, coloring Halloween tote bags with Pro-Stitch Embroidery, sandwiches from the Dead Pig Tavern, gumbo from Po' Boys Creole Restaurant, and hot cider from Milton Community Food Pantry. Plans are also in place to offer mead from Brimming Horn Meadery.
The event will conclude with 302 Bicycle’s contribution: the bike decorating contest and a bike ride around Milton Memorial Park.
The business owners want to turn Fall Back Into Milton to an annual event, starting with a simple event this year, given they have less than a month to get the festival off the ground.
While Milton Theatre representatives have said they plan to explore bringing Zombie Fest back to Milton next year, those left behind were skeptical.
“Once it goes to Dewey, it’s not coming back,” Sinnott said.
Suburban Farmhouse owner Kristen Latham said it was important for this event to be something tied to the community, not necessarily an individual organization.
“There’s too many of these that have left. This way, it’s the community as a whole,” she said.
Still, the businesses do not see the event as a slight to the theater.
“This has never been intended to be a thumb in the eye. It has always been that we as businesses have to recoup. We’ve let them take the ball and run with it, and they’ve been great. But now, that ball has left town, and we have to, in essence, grab it back,” Sinnott said.