News and Tribune


October 7, 2011

NASH: It’s that time of year again

It is starting to get dark earlier in the evening and stays dark longer in the mornings. The morning temperatures are starting to dip to a point to where it is down right cold if you leave your windows open all night.

Soon, the leaves will begin to change and eventually fall off the trees, and raking them up will be the bane of my existence. Fall has come to Southern Indiana and that means one thing to New Albany residents — it is Harvest Homecoming time.

Now in its 44th year, Harvest Homecoming has grown from a simple pumpkin festival to one of the largest events held in Indiana. Hundreds of thousands of people converge on downtown New Albany to visit the party that “was conceived as a means of bringing the people of Southern Indiana together to share in its wealth of talent, historic background and beauty,” according to the event’s website.

A parade kicks-off the festivities held annually on the first Saturday in October followed by four “booth days” the following weekend. The parade has featured such dignitaries as Davy Jones of the Monkees and Tom Wopat of the “Dukes of Hazzard.”

Many people line the parade route and cheer on the floats as the travel from New Albany High School to the heart of downtown. I have participated in the parade as a spectator and as a participant and there is nothing like it in this part of the state.

People travel to New Albany to visit the Harvest Homecoming for a variety of reasons. Many people come down to eat the food that is only available this time of year. Some come down for the chicken and dumplings, others for the fresh-made doughnuts. I always enjoy a ear of roasted corn and wash it down with a pork chop sandwich.

Others come downtown to see people that they haven't seen since last year’s Harvest Homecoming. For years, there are a few people that I always make it a point to see while I am down there. Some of them include people that I went to high school with and others are people that I worked with years ago. Some work at the same booths every year and I always make a point to stop by and say hello.    

There are also those that come to see the entertainment. Whether there is a rock ‘n’ roll show at the riverfront Friday night or a group of school kids singing or square dancing on the official Harvest Homecoming stage, there is something available for everybody. For years, I worked a booth where we could watch the old Pearl Street stage and I remember the belly dancers that seemed to be scheduled every year on Sunday afternoon.

Until the last few years, many people only came to downtown New Albany during the Harvest Homecoming. Lately, that trend has changed with many dining and shopping options opening up in recent years. Now, people have more reasons to visit our once floundering downtown area.

There has been some grumbling from people who own businesses downtown for things like trash thrown around and booth operators taking over the sidewalks in front of their business. Some places even close down there business for those days because of the problems.  

Even the YMCA — which has been heralded as the catalyst for some of the Renaissance  downtown — schedules its annual shutdown during the booth days. Downtown merchants contribute to our city for the other 361 days of the year and should be given some consideration.

I talked to a mayor from the early 1970s once and he said in the early days there was a proposal to move the booths to the center of the street back to back so as not to disturb the daily operations of the permanent businesses. This might be a legitimate compromise if the Harvest Homecoming committee would be willing to make some adjustments. Of course, change is often hard implement, even if it would be a huge benefit to our entire city.

    Another idea that has been tossed out is moving the whole thing to the riverfront —  putting all of the booths in one long shot from West 10th to East Sixth Street would be interesting and would bring residents back to their river heritage. There would be some logistical problems with parking, with many people fearing that crossing the floodwall would be too much of an obstacle.

Harvest Homecoming has a little something for everybody. I have been visiting it for most of my life and have experienced from the position of booth operator, booth volunteer and as a private citizen just enjoying the show. I look forward to it every year and who knows, maybe I will see you downtown this weekend.  

— Matthew Nash may or may not be spotted at this year’s Harvest Homecoming with an ear of corn in one hand and pork chop sandwich in the other. He may be reached at

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