The festival moved to Second Avenue, better known as the back street, several years ago in an effort to consolidate more closely with the farmers market, Civil War re-enactment organization and library to create a festival focused on the county’s heritage.
Changes in vendors n eliminating commercial products n shrank the number of vendors for a year or so, but these numbers continue to grow as more and more vendors of handmade original arts and crafts seek to participate. This led to talk of moving back to Jefferson Avenue to create more room. Space is limited along the back street because of the proximity of residential neighborhoods. But the problems found with the electrical systems downtown, which contributed to the move to the back street, were found to be beyond easy repair or replacement.
The Christmas in July Festival committee met in late September to discuss the 2009 event and the possibility of moving. A survey sent to downtown businesses through the West Jefferson Business Association revealed a 60-40 split between those favoring the move and those who did not. Most favored the festival remaining on the back street.
It was also revealed that an assessment of the town’s electrical structure to bring it up to the festival’s needs would cost $20-30,000.
Town Manager Greg McGinnis said retired electrician Don Norwood, a volunteer with the festival, had investigated the electrical situation when he came on board with the festival several years ago, and found much of the infrastructure to have been removed and what remained was out of code.
McGinnis said Blue Ridge Electric was called in to repair at least one dangerous spot, but what remained that would be needed for the festival is below code and it was going to cost a lot of money to upgrade and expand the infrastructure.
The town defers to the festival on location, McGinnis said, and the festival committee said there is no money to do the electrical upgrade, and did not expect the town to pay for it, so the decision is to stay on the back street.
Festival Executive Director Kathy Howell reported to the aldermen last week that funds were not available for the electrical upgrade, so the festival was requesting the same “footprint” as last year on the back street. She said she had met with town officials about the electrical needs, and reported back to her board about the situation.
The aldermen voted to approve the festival’s request for the same arrangement for location and street closure schedule as last year. The festival takes place the first full weekend of July with music and food on Friday evening and expanding to include craft vendors all day on Saturday.