ALACHUA ‒ Nov. 14 was the perfect day for a festival. After several cloudy, damp and cold days, Sunday brought clear blue skies with mild temperatures in the 60s. Main Street in Alachua was closed down at both ends as over 200 vendors set up along the street promoting their products, services or expertise. The Alachua Main Street Harvest Festival has been one of the city’s signature events since 2003, bringing thousands of visitors to Main Street in Alachua to enjoy vendors, a variety of food, music and activities for adults and children. And this year, they came out for the weather as well.

The Alachua Business League (ABL) has been hosting two festivals a year, one in the spring and one in the fall, with the exception of 2020 due to the pandemic. The festivals promote local businesses directly to the public and show off Alachua's historic downtown district.

The ABL’s mission is to promote business-to-business support, organize events and activities to promote local business, maintain a business network among local businesses, and welcome all new businesses into the area.

The lively festival also brings the community together with entertainment, activities, and vendors selling a diverse selection of items including clothes, jewelry, art, plants and services. The festival is especially family-friendly, with lots for kids to do, and true to its name as a fall harvest festival, there was a wide range of available food options.

This year for many locals it was a chance to get out and mingle with others after months of limited contact, bringing back a sense of familiarity on a sunny fall day. The ABL has expanded the festival over the years, diversifying the type of businesses and vendors participating, bringing in more charitable organizations and general entertainment for both adults and kids.

Fun, food and entertainment are important features of the festival, but the event has a serious purpose as well. The Alachua Business League is a nonprofit organization that also sponsors two $2,500 scholarships for local high school students from Santa Fe High School. The scholarships are awarded to students who show a strong entrepreneur ability and are interested in starting or promoting a business locally after college. The scholarships are awarded for tuition and books to help the selected students with college expenses

The ABL membership consists of over 75 businesses in the Alachua area. The cost of joining is kept low to help encourage membership. Each business pays $75 a year, which provides a number of services including social media exposure, networking and workshops, as well as a booth at both festivals. For nonmembers, booth fees at the festival are also kept low to encourage participation. Vendor booth fees are $75 for general vendors, $125 for ride areas and $150 for food vendors. All fees go toward festival expenses to help keep the event free to the public as well as fund the two scholarships.

By all accounts, this year’s festival was a great success that surely left both ABL members and the public looking forward to next year’s celebration.

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