Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

The Franklin Tourism Development Authority’s mission is to promote the town in a manner that entices visitors to visit Macon County. The board, which operates independently from the town of Franklin has an annual budget of $113,000, funds raised through room occupancy taxes collected by lodging facilities within the town of Franklin, to allocate towards efforts intended to increase the number of visitors to town. On Monday night, the Franklin TDA was presented with four grant requests for the current fiscal  year totaling $22,752, all of which propose options to increase tourism in Franklin.

Funding request for Franklin Trail Days

For the last few years, the Franklin Appalachian Trail Community Council (FATCC) has worked to develop a month long celebration centered around the Appalachian Trail. Franklin Trail Days runs from March 20 until April 22 – the first day of Spring until Earth Day – and features various events at the Macon County Public Library, local churches, and local businesses geared toward the outdoors. The event celebrates the AT, an invaluable resource for the community and gives hikers, who have proven to provide a significant economic boost to the local economy, an incentive to stay in town and spend additional tourism dollars.

The FATCC requested $1,252 from the Franklin TDA to help cover marketing costs for the month long event. The request would fund the installation and removal of a banner across Main Street, as well as two advertisements in outdoor magazines that have a combined circulation of more than 70,000 readers.

Funding request for the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts

For the last several years, the Franklin TDA has recognized the performing arts center’s contribution to tourism through dozens of events hosted annually and has forged a partnership to fund the center’s marketing efforts. The TDA has provided the Smoky Mountain Center with $15,000 a year with the intent of funding marketing and advertisements for the shows performed at the center.

Scotty Corbin, manager of the theater, submitted a grant proposal to members of the TDA on Monday night in the amount of $15,000 to continue the TDA’s partnership with the center. According to Corbin, the center is on track to sell more than 50,000 tickets this year, 77 percent of which have come from individuals outside of the 28734 area code. Corbin, along with Beth Payseur with Premiere Marketing presented members of the board with “heat” maps to show the largest concentration areas of where ticket buyers are from in the southeastern United States. The funds provided by the TDA are specifically allocated for marketing and receipts are provided to the TDA each year to show how the dollars are spent.

Funding request for a Toy and Gifts Expo

Ron Haven and James Taylor presented the TDA with a grant request in the amount of $5,000 to market a proposed Toys and Gift Expo scheduled for Dec. 10  and 11 at the community building.

According to Haven, the event is proposed as a trade show and will enhance tourism through marketing and sales at the event. Vendors will pay a booth fee to set up displays with toys and gifts for the holiday season and people attending the event will pay an admission fee to attend. Haven said he plans to use the funds from the TDA to advertise the event through billboards, on television and in regional newspapers.

Funding request for annual Ruby Drop New Years Eve Celebration

Timothy Crabtree, organizer for the annual New Years Eve Ruby Drop in downtown Franklin requested $1,500 from the TDA to market the event.

“This will be the third year we have hosted the event and this year we are moving the Ruby to the center of town at the intersection on town square,” said Crabtree. “The town of Franklin has approved closing the entire Main Street this year so we are excited to have the Ruby Drop at midnight in the middle of Main Street.”

The New Years celebration has grown over the last few years and stands as a unique event for Franklin. In addition to Motor Company Grill hosting the celebration, businesses along Main Street are open with individual events all centered around ringing in the new year.

The grant request will be used to promote the Ruby Drop as a whole and all advertising will feature information about the events each business participating will be hosting.

The TDA will consider each grant application at its next scheduled meeting, which will be a joint meeting with the Macon County Tourism Development Commission on Dec. 12 at 5:30 p.m. In addition to voting on the grant requests, the TDA and TDC will discuss plans for the August 2016 Solar Eclipse.