Brittany Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
The Streets of Franklin Heritage Association is working overtime to fill in gaps left by event and festival cancellations as a result of COVID-19. Streets of Franklin is comprised of Main Street business owners who work together to organize sidewalk sales, downtown music, and the annual Main Street Heritage festival. With many businesses being forced to close during the shutdown as a result of COVID-19, the group is getting extra creative in planning safe, fun, and enjoyable events and shopping opportunities downtown.
Monday night, after the Town of Franklin announced they would be cancelling the 24th annual PumpkinFest event as a result of COVID-19, Streets of Franklin President Gwen Taylor, was in the crowd ready to announce alternative options to promote downtown businesses in lieu of the festival.
“We have been trying to plan monthly ‘events,’ or things to encourage shoppers to get downtown since we were allowed to open back up,” said Taylor. “We have been hosting sidewalk sales, having live music on Main Street, doing more decorating, anything we can think of to get people in the doors.”
In July, downtown merchants decorated Main Street with black and blue balloons in support of the Back the Blue rally, which attracted hundreds to Main Street. Without PumpkinFest this year, which typically draws a crowd of 8,000 or more visitors and residents to Main Street in a single day, Taylor said they hope to start the fall celebration a little earlier.
“We will now be able to start mid-September for ‘Hometown Fall on Main’ and go through the end of October with October 17th as a ‘Main Day,’” Taylor announced on the Streets of Franklin Facebook page Tuesday morning. “We are excited and will work with our town manager closely on this.”
The merchants plan to promote “Hometown Fall on Main” beginning September 19 and going through Halloween. The main fall celebration will occur October 17, the day PumpkinFest was originally scheduled, and will be called “Celebrate Fall on Main.”
Town Manager Summer Woodard said that funding, which would have otherwise been used for PumpkinFest, will now be made available to Streets of Franklin to help promote different events and special activities downtown. Woodard also said the town is looking into alternative ways to get shoppers downtown; one idea is a large pumpkin patch around the gazebo for shoppers to visit.
Woodard said that the decision to cancel PumpkinFest was a difficult one and that the additional time now available will be used to plan a bigger and better 25th PumpkinFest in 2021.