After a 15-year-run the Taste of Scotland festival has come to an end, at least temporarily. The event, sponsored by the Scottish Tartans Museum, has been an ongoing festival for Maconians and tourists alike, celebrating Macon County’s Scots-Irish heritage and cultural distinctiveness. Unfortunately, event organizers could not find anyone to fill the void left by Claire Suminski and Kathie Akins, who have worked tirelessly in the past to put the event together.
Suminski has been the event coordinator of the festival for more than a decade, taking over after Betty Merrill began the festival in the late 90s. Merrill left her mark on Franklin in many ways, as she founded the Taste of Scotland Festival, Pickin’ on the Square, and Pumpkinfest. The latter event has evolved into a tremendous event for the downtown area.
However, the Taste of Scotland festival has experienced a great deal of stress in the past few years, as organizers have had to cope with reduced financial resources and sponsorships. The recession has not helped their cause either. Last year, after festival organizers hired someone from Asheville to take the lead in putting the event together, the person quit two weeks prior to the event date. “It was hard but we managed somehow. Everyone came together and we put on a good event,” said Suminski.
Suminski stated that the chamber of commerce is looking into remaking the festival next year, perhaps adding more events and combining elements of the Scottish Highlands Games to the event. “I don’t think this will be the last of the festival. It’s unfortunate but I really do enjoy seeing what is going on in our downtown area. We have so many other events that make our downtown area a thriving one, and I think that speaks to what Franklin has to offer,” she said.
The Taste of Scotland Festival received funding from the Town of Franklin, the TDC, the TDA, the Arts Council, as well as vendor fees. “I think that’s something our festivals offer that others don’t. We don’t have a gatefee that people have to pay. People can attend Franklin’s downtown events for free, and the only money we get is from vendors and other sponsors,” stated Suminski. “I will miss the entertainment and the interaction with vendors the most,” she said when asked about what she would miss the most.
Jim and Kathi Akins have also been instrumental in organizing the Taste of Scotland Festival for the last several years. “That’s the one thing about it is that it wasn’t self sufficient, and nobody really wanted to step up and organize the festival this year,” said Jim Akins.
Suminski did emphasize the nature of the work that developing such a festival requires. “People don’t realize how much work goes into it. It can be very stressful and it takes a lot of work, but it was always rewarding,” she said. “So many volunteers helped bring the festival to Franklin for so many years, and I’m thankful for all of their hard work. They deserved to be recognized,” stated Suminski.