One of Franklin's more popular festivals will be celebrating its 10th year on July 20. The Franklin Folk Festival, which is held the third Saturday in July, has become a staple of the town's culture and has been helping shape Franklin's identity for almost a decade.
Event promoters with the Franklin Folk Festival, which has historically been a privately coordinated event held downtown, will be teaming up with Franklin's Main Street Program (FMSP) this summer to ensure that the festival has the support needed to continue.
According to Theresa Ramsey, volunteer with the Folk Festival, the decision was made to partner with the FMSP to help with the growing numbers the festival has seen in the past. “For the last few years, the Franklin Folk Festival has grown to become bigger and bigger as it built on the previous year's participants and organizations involved,” explained Ramsey. “It is truly a collaborative effort utilizing resources and volunteers from many organizations. It became clear that the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County (FHAMC) and Franklin Folk Festival Committee — all volunteer board members — needed more involvement and help to put on this event downtown. Our committed group of volunteers have given record number of hours pretty much year-round to plan this event, and we are simply getting tired.”
Ramsey explained that in 2009, the Folk Festival was organized and held with the help of 300 volunteers who worked a total of 4317 hours; in 2010, 565 volunteers worked 7,253.5 hours; in 2011, 520 volunteers worked a total of 6,345.5 hours; and in 2012, the festival called for 466 volunteers working a total of 7,816.5 hours.
“This year, we must depend on a Folk Festival Executive Committee with responsibilities divided up to co-chair the event since no one from our organization [FHAMC] was willing to take over chairmanship,” said Ramsey. “We did not want to see the Folk Festival die. In an effort to continue, our organization asked Franklin Main Street Program to partner with us. Of course this year will offer challenges as we work through and compromise together to plan the event. We are excited about working with FMSP to continue the festival.”
Franklin Main Street Program's Executive Director Linda Schlott explained that while this year, the FMSP will play a more active role in the festival, they have pitched in in the past. “We have always provided funds and I have been there the day of the festival all day to help in any way I can, with festival setup and I’ve emptied lots of garbage cans,” said Schlott.
According to Ramsey, The Folk Heritage Association and the Folk Festival Executive Committee will co-sponsor the festival with the Franklin Main Street Program.
“Administrative tasks involved with the festival, i.e. financial reporting and bookkeeping — including grant funding reports— craft and food vendors, road closures, garbage, insurance, liaison with town businesses, etc. will be handled by the Franklin Main Street Program,” she said. “Exhibits involving demonstrations, education and music will be handled by the Folk Heritage Association and the executive committee,” said Ramsey. “The FHAMC willingly turned over the financial piece of the Franklin Folk Festival to the Franklin Main Street Program.
FHAMC would designate any leftover funds from a previous festival for the next year's festival and according to Ramsey, since the organization's purpose was not intended to make a profit, but instead to preserve heritage, the Franklin Main Street Program will be better equipped to manage the logistics involved with this festival along with all the other downtown festivals they do in a streamlined manner. “Both groups will work together on advertising and future festival press releases,” said Ramsey. “The FHAMC will highlight the demonstrators in a simple handout and signs will direct festival goers instead of the usual multi-page booklet. Other internal changes for planning and producing the festival being made by both groups will not even be noticed by those attending. The FHAMC's volunteers can focus on our goal and purpose to preserve the folk heritage in Macon County through a live demonstrations/festival while the Franklin Main Street Program can focus on the business aspects involved with a downtown event. The by-product of offering an event, such as the Franklin Folk Festival, to draw in visitors and residents alike to the downtown area will hopefully be a trend that continues to boost the economy.”
The partnership between festival promoters does come with change. According to the FMSP's monthly report to the Franklin Board of Aldermen, the festival will undergo changes such as charging booth fees for crafters and changing the food vendor menu to things such as hamburgers and hotdogs and not just heritage foods, which has been the case in the past. According to the report, which was presented to aldermen in January, the changes will allow the festival to be a profitable event for the FMSP, and will be done similar to PumpkinFest with proceeds going to the FMSP. “The festival will keep its Appalachian heritage appeal, but be more profitable,” reads the FMSP report.
Ramsey hopes to bring in more crafters this year for the “Crafters Lane.”
“For 2013 Franklin Folk Festival, we anticipate adding more juried craft vendors and more food vendors to complement the heritage food vendors from festivals past,” said Ramsey. “The FMSP will oversee these vendors with support from the festival demonstrations committee to make sure craft vendors again support the theme of Appalachian Heritage.”
With the exception of an increase in Appalachian heritage displays, Ramsey said there will be few other noticeable changes to the event. “The festival goer will probably not notice any major differences in the Franklin Folk Festival except additions of new displays, demonstrators and vendors - the big difference will be how the ‘behind the scenes’ managerial tasks, financing and division of responsibilities will be handled,” said Ramsey. “Having exhibitors that demonstrate heritage skills will continue to be one of the main goals of the festival and we hope to add even more hands-on opportunities.”
As in previous years, Ramsey noted that The Folk Heritage Association of Macon County will coordinate its many displays such as the moonshine still; antique car show; memorial wall; annual corn shuckin' contest; music; front porch interviews; a variety of children's activities: craft projects and old fashioned games; and many other exhibits including the Original World's Largest Quilt, the Cabarrus Quilt, the Celebrate American Autograph Quilt and the Macon Treasures Quilt.
“Recognizing the value of collaboration with many other organizations and groups in Macon County and beyond, we are again planning for these displays: 25th Infantry Civil War camp to set up on Frogtown, one-room school, storytelling station, 4-H farm animal displays, firetrucks and memorabilia, Macon County churches, local foods displays, Heritage Alive Youth Talent Contest and heritage appropriate concerts at Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, as well as educational displays and the downtown museums and merchants,” said Ramsey.
With the changes that are expected, Ramsey said that the main goal will be to work to preserve and share the area's heritage. “Continuing the trademark tradition of spotlighting many talented demonstrators displaying heritage skills and a way of life from the turn of the century with hands-on participation will remain the primary focus of the festival,” she said. “A free event for the entire family.”
Schlott views that Folk Festival as an opportunity to highlight Franklin to a crowd that may not otherwise visit the area. “They [festivals like the Folk Festival] bring folks that maybe wouldn’t come to Franklin but have a interest in the particular event,” said Schlott. “The Franklin Main street Program welcomes this partnership with the Folk Heritage Association and thinks it will be beneficial to all. The Franklin Folk Festival is a real asset to our community.”