Words cannot fully describe the experience that resulted in the presentation of the first annual Rockin’ Railroad Festival last Saturday. I’ve heard comments that contained the words ‘awesome’, ‘incredible’, ‘fantastic’, ‘terrific’ and ‘unbelievable’ and others from those that came to the event and enjoyed themselves. Praises have been heaped upon the Chamber of Commerce for taking the initiative to plan the event with no holds barred. That it was a success is really no surprise to the many that planned and put on the festival, you see.
Back in February, after my first meeting as president of the Chamber, three of the organization’s board members–John Huntington, Janet Foster and David Brunt–myself and executive director Randle Day stayed around to discuss what could be done in 2009. What happened next was truly amazing–all four of us had the same idea of hosting a festival in downtown and promoting the area.
A Steering Committee consisting of Janet, John and myself was formed. From there, the festival planning was full speed ahead. We visited the Mississippi Arts Commission to get advice from the premier event planner in the state, Malcolm White. Next, we began asking folks in the community that are perceived as leaders and doers to serve on the RRF committee and to form the various sub-committees for the parts of the festival. The response was phenomenal, as most of those asked to serve agreed to do so.
The committees worked diligently, fervently and at full tilt to present a first class festival. Along the way, even more folks wanted to join and did so with as much gusto as those already on board.
The decision to not charge any sort of entrance fee to get into the festival was a good one and was made fairly early in the planning process. The Steering Committee believed that sponsorships from local businesses, organizations and individuals would provide the funding that the committees would need. A modest budget was set, and the fundraising began.
We had an unbelievable response from our community of commerce, ultimately gaining 39 sponsors for this first event and allowing the various parts of the festival to be presented in first-class fashion. The commitments to sponsor were a positive sign that Hazlehurst was ready for such an event.
Those of you who attended Saturday, in short, were able to enjoy the fruits of the labor of the three dozen or so volunteers that worked on the festival. From the entertainment to the arts and crafts vendors to the car show to the kids zone to the art and literary displays in the Depot and to the food vending, I don’t believe anyone left without a smile on their face or without having a great time.
The festival, thanks to many and thanks to you, was a huge success.