Collaborative Indian Head ‘Autumn Festival’ could return
The Town of Indian Head and Naval Support Facility Indian Head want to bring a memorable community festival back to Charles County.
On April 20, Brian Klaas, a member of the board of directors for the Charles County Chamber Of Commerce and co-chair of the Military Alliance Council for Charles County, presented an idea to the Town of Indian Head Town Council that would bring the base and town closer together as a community: the return of the Autumn Festival.
The Autumn Festival was one of the many collaborative events in Indian Head created in partnership between the military base and the community in years past.
“Up until 13 or 14 years ago, the base put on an annual Autumn Festival ... the entire base opened up the gates to the town and we had a festival. It was really a good annual event that everyone looked forward to every year, but the 9/11 [attacks] changed a lot of things around Indian Head for the worse,” Klaas said. “One of the bad things that happened was that a lot of the access that the community had to the military installation here in Indian Head went away, and with that the Autumn Festival died and has not taken place since.”
He said the festival was an opportunity to get locals and base personnel togeth- er behind the gate — specifically in the outer perimeter of the base — for activities, entertainment and even a chili cook-off contest the night before the big festival.
“Different office buildings would make their own chili and it was like a big competition,” said Town Manager Ryan Hicks.
Mayor Brandon Paulin gave the MAC’s Autumn Festival idea two-thumbs up and believes it is a great way to reconnect the base with residents.
“I think this aligns exactly with the conversation that we had about at least the outer perimeter of the base being open more to the public,” Vice Mayor Ron Sitoula said. “I think this is definitely a first step and that it would be a welcome change. It will slowly build that bond between the residents and the base.”
Councilman Curtis Smith and Hicks said they do not know whether the gate to the base will ever officially be opened to residents again, but agreed that these discussions are a great start and new beginning for the town.
“The MAC was always cognizant of security on the base and we know what it was like in the past with taking security into account, but any opportunity we can have to better partner with the largest employment center here on the western side of the county, we’re going to do,” Klaas said.
Klaas said he is not trying to give anyone false hope about the base being com- pletely open more often to residents, but this is just a start to a community and naval base bond.
He said that this event is something that the MAC board of directors agreed they should pursue with the town’s blessing.
“It’s good to foster these types of community activities, but I don’t want anyone to think that the security restrictions are going to be lessened,” Smith said.
Smith added that the town and the residents would like to have more multicultural events to embrace the town’s diversity, and he sees the Autumn Festival as an opportunity to incorporate the desires of local residents. Klaas agreed. “Culturally, we really want to make a statement with this and show that from 30 years ago, Indian Head has changed for the better, and all of these things can be demonstrated through this opportunity. We are more diverse and we want to incorporate all of those things that I think will tighten the bond between the community and the base. That bond has suffered a little bit over the past 15 years but the tenants on the base really want more involvement with our community,” said Klaas.
He said he will take the council’s feedback to the MAC board of directors, discuss a few possible festival dates and come back to the next town council work session with an update.