Edward McFadden – Staff Writer
CLARION, Pa.- Before Clarion was a state-owned university, it was a seminary.
Started in 1867 as Carrier Seminary, the institution has experienced a long and transformative journey to this year when it turns 150 years old. The event is recognized by developments including the redesigned Clarion Eagle logo on banners around the campus and town, but maybe nowhere more strongly than during Clarion’s 64th annual Autumn Leaf Festival.
Much like Clarion itself, the festival had humble origins. In 1953, local businesses decorated the town for the state college’s homecoming game. The next year, a pair of parades was added to attract more people to the town. Today, the event is a nine-day festival featuring food vendors, crafters and a variety of events leading up to the university’s homecoming.
Each year, Clarion’s Autumn Leaf Festival (ALF) attracts thousands to Clarion for a nine-day festival featuring an antique car show, food vendors, a crafters’ day and the Miss Teen ALF pageant scholarship program, all culminating in the homecoming football game. This year, Clarion’s Golden Eagles face the Seton Hill Griffins.
According to Kenzi Mundkowsky, a junior secondary education major at Clarion, the festival, as an extension of homecoming, serves to bring alumni and students together again, if only briefly.
“I know for my Greek organizations, and a lot of other organizations, alumni events are scheduled around homecoming because it’s the one time of the year that we know that our alumni are going to be back in town,” said Mundkowsky.
For many upperclassmen, the festival allows the chance to catch up with friends who have already graduated, but are back in town for the weekend. However, Clarion’s 150th Anniversary celebration is expected to attract earlier graduates back to their alma mater.
“I think it’s a really important celebration now of all times. There’s been so many issues in the state education system over the past few years. So, to say we’ve been able to make it this far despite all these issues is a really big accomplishment,” Mundkowsky said, when asked about Clarion’s sesquicentennial.
Mundkowsky serves as drum major and conductor for the Clarion University Marching Band. This ALF will see her third annual participation in both the parade and football game, and she is also involved in Kappa Kappa Psi and Phi Sigma Sigma.
The website for Clarion’s 150th anniversary put it this way: “From our early days as a seminary to today’s institution […] one thing is certain- Clarion University isn’t going anywhere.”