LEWISBURG — The return of an especially fuzzy caterpillar and the arrival of a crowd of bicyclists caused attendance to swell Saturday at the annual Lewisburg Fall Festival.

“Last year, we had a crowd but it was nothing like this,” Ellen Ruby, executive director, Lewisburg Downtown Partnership (LDP), said. “This is what we want to see in Lewisburg.”

Dan MacArthur of The Cookie Dude, a gourmet cookie company based in Milton, sold out of his stock in just a few hours. His stand was among dozens of vendors spread in Hufnagle Park and along Sixth Street.

"I saw a lot of riders from unPAved," MacArthur said. "They can eat something sweet because they're just going to burn it off tomorrow."

LDP moved its event back one week to coincide with unPAved — a gravel road bicycle race that in only its second year is proving to be a serious boon to tourism in the Valley. The cycling event stretched over four days this year and drew 800-plus bicyclists and hundreds more supporters. Today's races kick-off at the Miller Center at 7 a.m. with staggered start times for four races: 120, 90, 54 and 30 miles, respectively.

Couples like Paul Potvin and Jennifer Clark of Toronto, Canada, made a long weekend of unPAved. They’re renting a place in Mifflinburg and taking in the local offerings.

“Last year, a friend of mine said unPAved is going to be the next big one,” Potvin said of gravel road events.

Organizers of unPAved model the event on a gravel race in Emporia, Kansas — The Dirty Kanza, which drew an estimated 2,750 riders in 2019.

Bergur Benediktsson visited Lewisburg from Iceland to exhibit bikes built by Lauf Cycling, a company based in Reykjavik. unPAved’s coupling with the Lewisburg Fall Festival proved a unique experience as it blended arts, crafts, food and bikes.

Evan Grotala and his wife, Helena, represented Nittany Mountain Works of Phillipsburg, which offers gear and clothing for outdoor activities.

“It’s a fantastic mix, the infusion of non-bikers and the bike industry,” Evan Grotala said. “It’s cool to engage the general public.”

Walk It! Bike It! Lewisburg engaged kids at the festival with a bike rodeo. Participants could have their helmets fitted by professionals from Evangelical Community Hospital and also have their bikes examined in a mechanical checkup by the staff of Earl’s Bicycles.

The Festival marked the return of woolly worm-themed activities at Hufnagle Park. There was a one-year hiatus. While the local Kiwanis Club relaunched its Woolly Worm Festival last weekend near Allenwood, LDP used the caterpillar to draw kids for races and a prognostication.

Mike Glazer led the prognostication exercise as he’s done in years past. He gathered a group of kids to study the woolly worms and its black and brown segments. Legend says the worms, like the famed groundhog in western Pennsylvania, can predict the severity of the coming winter.

On Saturday, the prognosticators at Hufnagle Park concluded we’re in for a snowy winter.

“We’re going to have a real winter but not the worst ever seen,” Glazer said. “Go out there and buy some shovels.”

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