a) the name of a little-known Indian tribe that resided in the Blue Ridge Mountains in the late 19th century;
b) a backwoods term used to describe wading in shallow water (as in, “The water was neewollah high when I went searching for tadpoles in the creek last week”); or
c) the word “Halloween” spelled backwards, and the name of Anniston’s newest fall festival.
If you guessed c, you’re right — and probably a little dumbfounded.
“It’s the coolest catchphrase ever,” said Dianna Michaels, the new executive director at the Spirit of Anniston. “Some people still look at it as a pagan holiday. When you write it backwards, it’s not as … offensive to people who might think Halloween is sacrilegious.”
Pulled together in less than three months by the organization, the first-ever Neewollah on Noble fall festival is taking over downtown Anniston on the last Saturday in October.
“Fall festivals tend to be feel-good festivals,” Michaels said. “Everyone’s excited, kids are back in school, it’s near Halloween, the air turns crisp, and families are looking for fun things to do.”
The day-long event promises something for everyone. In addition to live music and the requisite arts and craft vendors, kids can let their imaginations run wild at the pumpkin decorating contest, local merchants are stuffing themselves — or their scarecrows, rather — with hay in their own decorating competition, and there’ll be a costume contest for kids, adults, even the dog.
Add in funnel cakes, fried Oreos, pottery demonstrations, a cupcake walk and horse carriage rides, and you’ve got a throwback to the traditional fall festivals remembered by older kids and adults from back in grade-school. Just don’t look to try out apple-bobbing.
“A lot of the school systems and a lot of places don’t have fall festivals anymore,” Michaels said. “So this will really cater to some of the adults who will go ‘Wow, I remember doing this as a child,’ and now they have an opportunity to bring their children downtown and expose them to some of the fun fall festival-type activities that they were used to.”
But just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it won’t be scary, as there will also be guided tours of Still Midtown Ceramics, The Peerless, and other long-standing buildings that, according to Michaels, have been home to paranormal activity.
“It is a ghost tour, but at the same token the proprietors are going to give you a little bit of the history behind the building,” she explained. “it incorporates the ghost story with a bit of history and a bit of knowledge about the heritage of the building itself.”
Michaels says the Spirit of Anniston organization has high hopes for the city’s newest annual tradition.
“We definitely plan on doing it again next year and the year after and so on and so forth,” she said. “This festival has the potential for enormous growth in the future. We really want to encourage folks to come early — and stay late.”