16 acres of fun

Foothills Fall Festival’s Adventure Land welcomes squirrels on skis, pumpkins on heads and high-flying canines

The water-skiing squirrel is back.

So are the pumpkin foam heads.

Add in all the games, rides, inflatables, shows, bumper cars, mazes, basketball, climbing walls and crafts, and it’s a wonder even 16 acres can hold it.

Welcome to Adventure Land -- formerly Children’s Adventure Land -- of the Foothills Fall Festival.

The new handle reflects how the play area has changed in the seven years since it was first introduced, said Adventure Land chair Patti Clevenger.

“Our name has changed, but the fun is the same,” said Clevenger. “We dropped the ‘children’ because it is for families, not just children. It’s for all ages, and we decided to name it accordingly.”

New acts and activities will greet visitors. One headliner will be Mario Manzini, an entertainer who bills himself as a Houdini-tribute act.

“He lives in Columbia, Mo., but he’s from the Bronx. He’s an escapologist and if you look at his credentials, they are good. He’s a showman and I think he’s going to attract a lot of different age groups and that’s what we liked,” Clevenger said.

Another act, Jim Bryson, is a ventriloquist with a group called Sounds Familiar. He will also be on the Showtime Stage.

“I was searching the web under ‘gigsalad,’ which has all different kinds of entertainers looking for gigs. When I put in children’s entertainers, they both popped up,” Clevenger said of Bryson and Manzini.

Clevenger said the committee also has help in picking acts. “It’s a group effort. When we look at acts, we get a lot of CDs and videos to watch. Also, Stephen Moore with RCS Productions checks them out to make sure they’re crowd-pleasers. He lets us know if there are new acts, and we all get together and decide if they are going to fit,” she said. “It’s a family atmosphere, and we want something suitable for families and all ages.”

A new game this year is an outdoor laser tag. “We will still have indoor laser tag, but this one is outdoors,” said Clevenger. “It reminds me of paintball. It has inflatable barriers, and you get behind them and shoot at each other. And, for younger kids, we have the Pirate Play Ship, which is a wooden pirate ship.”

Returning for the festival’s 10th birthday will be Twiggy the Waterskiing Squirrel. Steve West of West Chevrolet is sponsoring Twiggy.

“It’s great he is bringing her back for the 10th birthday,” said Clevenger. “Her pool will be in the Showtime area at the corner of McCammon Avenue and Cusick Street.”

With tickets for the entertainment portion of Foothills Fall Festival sold out, the price is right for Adventure Land: It’s free.

“Everything is free because of our sponsors. Green Bank is our presenting sponsor, and all of our sponsors in the festival make Adventure Land free.”

Clevenger said Clayton Homes will be giving out sponge pumpkins in their face painting area. This has become a tradition, and children always clamor to get their foam pumpkin heads.

“That’s Claytons claim to fame every year,” she said. “I love it.”

The Boy Scouts will have an encampment in the Adventure Land again this year as well, she said.

Tiny Tot Land features sand piles, a hay maze and pumpkin crawl, baby bumper cars, carousel and climbing toys and playhouses.

Clevenger said Tiny Tot Land is available in large part to the generosity of Wal-Mart and Blount Excavating. “Most of the items in Tiny Tot Land come from Wal-Mart. We’ll have our ever-popular photo op site with the hay maze and the pumpkin crawl, and Steve Garner with Blount Excavating will bring sand,” she said.

Muttallica, the K-9 agility show, will entertain audiences of all ages. The dogs perform in Extreme Adventure Land near the Alcoa end of the Greenway. Tumble Bears will be in Extreme Adventure Land and Twiggy the Water-skiing Squirrel’s pool will be at McCammon Avenue and Cusick Street.

In the past, Kiddy Karaoke for children has been in a tent by itself but this year it will be on the Showtime Stage. “They are going to be on our real stage for the first time so I’m excited about that,” Clevenger said.

The chair said she is impressed with how the Community Stage has evolved. “If you look at what has changed most over the years, this year we’ve got all the open slots filled with groups from schools, dance studios and churches,” she said. “This is the first time that stage has been totally full, and it’s such a neat thing. Before we had a lot of open slots on Friday and now all the slots are filled.”

No one will go hungry in Adventure Land, Clevenger said. There will be a wide selection of food vendors in the three areas that make up the Adventure Land. Sweet potato fries, chicken on a stick, frozen chocolate-covered cheese cake and gelato are some of the items that will be for sale.

“We are going to have homemade doughnuts, ice cream, kettle corn and roasted corn on the cob,” said Clevenger.

Chris Clark is the food vendor chair. Vendors submit applications by the first of May and the Adventure Land committee is always looking for vendors who offer something different.

“Also, as people are loyal to us, we’re loyal to them. If they’ve been with us every year, we look at them because they’ve been with us,” she said. “Several of these food vendors have been with us every year.”

But the committee always looks for vendors offering something new. “If it’s something new and different, that’s the biggest thing,” she said. “We don’t like to duplicate because we want people to have choices.”

Adventure Land is also getting a visual face-lift. The pedestrian bridge at Pistol Creek Station will be decorated. “The pedestrian bridge and the Pistol Creek Station have added so much to children’s area aesthetically,” said Clevenger. “This year there is going to be a huge American flag flying off the Pedestrian Bridge. It’s the flag that hung in the theater as the backdrop to the Alabama show, so it has history. It’s huge, and it’s going to cover up most of the bridge.”

Clevenger said volunteers make the Adventure Land an enjoyable event to host.

“We have approximately 350 volunteers for Adventure Land. The third festival is when we started using volunteers to man activities for the kids, and we started with 30-something volunteers per shift,” she said. “I can remember being concerned that we would not have the volunteers. Look what happened: They came. This weekend we’ll have 75 volunteers per shift. It is incredible, and a lot of them have been with us since we first started using volunteers. It’s a homecoming. It’s like one big family.”

The Adventure Land chair said seeing everyone enjoy themselves is what she gets out of the festival.

“That what I love about the Adventure Land. My adventure is seeing all the people I can. There are no sad faces over there unless it is time to go home,” she said.

“Kids come in when we open on Friday, and they’ll be there until we close at 6 p.m. Sunday. That’s great.”

Clevenger said not many communities have something like Adventure Land or the Foothills Fall Festival. “The reason we are successful is because we have the community behind us and our sponsors are behind us,” she said. “Where else can kids do all this stuff? Where else can you go see a waterskiing squirrel for free, go climb the Army rock climbing wall for free. It’s incredible.”

Times for Adventure Land are noon to 7 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. There are no pets or bicycles allowed.

Foothills Fall Festival Schedule of Events:

Theater in the Park Entertainment Schedule (Ticket required)

Friday:

• 6:15 p.m. -- Opening Ceremony, Flag dedication

• 6:30 p.m. -- Dirty Guv’nahs

• 7:30 p.m. -- Little River Band

• 9 p.m. -- Kansas

Saturday

• 1:30 p.m. -- Homer Hart

• 2:30 p.m. -- Mic Harrison & The High Score

• 4 p.m. -- The Trailer Choir

• 5:30 p.m. -- Justin Moore

• 7 p.m. -- Chris Young

• 8:30 p.m. -- Alan Jackson

Sunday

• 1 p.m. -- Skyfall

• 2 p.m. -- Jackie Midkiff

• 3:30 p.m. -- Holly Alejo

• 5 p.m. -- Steven Hunley

• 6:30 p.m. -- Sawyer Brown

• 8 p.m. -- Rodney Atkins

ArtWay Music

Roy’s Record Shop (No admission charge)

Friday, Oct. 16

• 12:30 p.m.: Rhythm Pickups, Home-style country and gospel

• 2 p.m.: Steel String Swingers, Western Swing and early style country

• 3 p.m.: Gritte Fritter with John Dupree, Musique Americana

• 5 p.m.: Will Tate & Six Mile Express, Bluegrass from the next generation

• 6 p.m.: Jackie Wilburn, a Jerry Reed-style performer

Saturday, Oct. 17

• 10:15 a.m.: Songwriters, including Jim Myers, Lilly Sutton and Bill Cabage

• 12 p.m.: Shamrock Road, Irish Pub music and songs

• 1 p.m.: Barry Roseman Trio, Jazz

• 3 p.m.: Tri County, Bluegrass

• 4:30 p.m.: Ian Feeback and Dave Mills, acoustic Blues

• 6 p.m.: The Mediocre Band, Garage rock ‘n’ roll from ‘70s

Sunday, Oct. 18

• 12:15 p.m.: Maryville High Strings, classical, pop and traditional music

• 1:45 p.m.: Sisters of the Silver Sage, Western music

• 3:15 p.m.: Pistol Creek Catch of the Day

• 4:45 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Open mic

Adventure Land Community Stage (No admission charge)

Friday

• Noon: Opening Ceremony

• 1:30 p.m. -- TNT Gymnastics

• 2:30 p.m. -- Maryville High Dance Team

• 3:30 p.m. -- Maryville Christian Academy

• 5 and 5:30 p.m. -- Artistic Dance Unlimited

Saturday

• 10:30 a.m. -- Danse Et Plus

• 11:30 a.m. -- Maryville Christian Academy

• 12:30 p.m. -- Studio A

• 1:30 p.m. -- TNT Gymnastics

• 3:30 p.m. -- William Blount High Cadence

• 4 p.m. -- William Blount High Singers

• 5 and 5:30 p.m. -- Universal Starrs

Sunday

• 12:30 p.m. -- Ashley’s Dance Academy

• 1:30 p.m. -- TNT Gymnastics

• 2:30 p.m. -- Artistic Dance Unlimited

• 3 p.m. -- Artistic Dance Unlimited

• 4 p.m. -- Sam Houston Smokies

• 4:30 p.m. -- Carpenter’s Middle

Adventure Land Children’s Area (No admission charge)

Sounds Familiar Ventriloquist and Comedy - Showtime Stage

• Friday: 12:30, 2 and 4 p.m.

• Saturday: Noon, 2, 4 and 6 p.m.

• Sunday: Noon, 2 and 4 p.m.

Mario Manzini Guinness World Champion Escapologist

• Friday: 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.

• Saturday: 11:30 a.m., 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.

• Sunday: 1:30, 3:30 and 5 p.m.

Murlin’s Kiddie Karaoke

• Friday: Noon to 12:30, 1-1:30, 2:30-3:30, 4:30-5:30 and 6-7 p.m.

• Saturday: 10-11:30 a.m., 12:30-1:30, 2:30-3:30, 4:30-5:30 and 6:30-7 p.m.

• Sunday: 12:30-1:30, 2:30-3:30, 4:30-5 and 5:30-6 p.m.

Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel - Showtime Amphitheater

• Friday: 1, 3 and 5 p.m.

• Saturday: 11 a.m., 1, 3 and 5 p.m.

• Sunday: 1, 3 and 5 p.m.

Muttallica The Ultimate Canines - Extreme Stage

• Friday: 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.

• Saturday: 10:30, 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.

• Sunday: 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m.

Stars of Tomorrow Basketball - Showtime Basketball Court

• Friday: 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.

• Saturday: 11:30 a.m., 1:30, 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.

• Sunday: Noon, 2 and 4 p.m.

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