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Highwood's Hero

BY Laura Hine | September 16, 2016 | Feature Features National

Eric Falberg dedicates his time and talents to his hometown of Highwood, and the results—especially gauged in fun per resident—are outstanding.

From owning a bed-and-breakfast to starting and selling several businesses with his brother, Eric Falberg has always been a busy and successful entrepreneur. “We’ve lived everywhere from Vermont to Florida,” he says, but now, with his wife and three children, he has settled in Highwood, where he has served as an alderman for the past seven years. “I started in 2009, and things were kind of a mess. We had no reserves, the town was in debt and we needed infrastructure improvements,” he recounts. “So I suggested an evening farmers market, and people thought I was a little crazy.” But with the support of Mayor Charlie Pecaro, who has become a good friend, the night—filled with food, drinks and entertainment—has become a runaway success. “We needed to recreate that destination feel but with a family atmosphere,” says Falberg. So they added The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival—modeled on the one Falberg enjoyed when he lived near Keene, N.H.—and the Bloody Mary Fest and Garlic Fest, and this year’s Taco Fest. And the town is definitely getting noticed. “The first year, we had 1,000 pumpkins,” says Falberg. “The next year it was 26,000, and last year the estimate was 70,000 to 90,000 people came to the event.” The fest also squared off against the original one on the HGTV show Pumpkin Wars, which aired in 2013. But the real reason for these events isn’t just publicity for the town, although that has helped bring in businesses and contributed to the town’s $1 million in reserves and double-A bond rating. “You get to know your neighbors at these events, and it makes the community safer and friendlier,” he says. “On Wednesday nights, no one cooks dinner. You go to Everts Park, and you’ll for sure end up having dinner with friends.” Sounds like a small town done right. Seventh annual The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival, Oct. 7-9

FALBERG’S HOTS
Family vacations, a drink with my beautiful wife, a successful festival

FALBERG’S NOTS
Not showing up for appointments, misguided anger, uninformed opinions

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