Just my opinion
by Debbie Young Sanders
Sep 25, 2013 | 907 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I am writing to congratulate the City of Jasper and all involved on a successful Foothills Festival! The large crowds who came to enjoy the event certainly proved that our lovely historic downtown Jasper is a venue to rival any in our state. Watching the community groups, vendors, children and performers interact was heart warming. As with any event, a review should be made to keep growing and improving for subsequent events. I have some observations and opinions which I feel are worthy of review. As a member of the downtown business community, several merchants were disappointed that we were not given any voice or allowed to make any contributions prior to the event. The Downtown Business Association has conducted successful Heritage Day events in the past, so it would seem appropriate to include the wise counsel from those experienced in other downtown events.

Historically, our city, county and Chamber of Commerce have sometimes not worked together well. The editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle pointed this out in a recent article. I would include in this group the DBA. When planning the Foothills Festival, no one from the DBA was asked to participate, nor were we given any insight into the event before it was “set in stone.” This seemed odd to me since the event was to be in our front doors.

I found out about three weeks prior to the festival that the large entertainment stage would be located between 3rd and 4th avenues. This would cut off my business and six others from participating. I went to the planning office and asked who was in charge of the festival. No one would say who was in charge. I did speak with someone who seemed to be in charge. He said that the entertainment company decided where to place the stage. I asked him to reevaluate ... couldn’t changes be made so our businesses could be within the boundary? Could we place all vendors and nonprofits on 19th Street and be more inclusive? Could we work together?

Their answer was no. So, I thought maybe we could get some of the crowd to come backstage to our area by offering some really special backstage deals. (Make lemonade out of lemons so the speak.) Well, on the day of the festival, the sidewalks were blocked and police tape put up to keep the crowds in front of the stage. When I complained to the mayor he said that we were blocked off because he was “trying to be fair to everyone.” He further stated that I “should not complain and stick to my own business.”

I have worked for the Heritage Festival and many downtown events because I love our city. I have volunteered hours, days and weeks to make our city a better place. Yes, I have a business downtown and yes I hope to build business from the events. It has been my dream to see Jasper with a thriving city center filled with stores, art, restaurants, and services.

I see other cities in our state and across the nation doing such fun and exciting things ... building pride in community. Showcasing all of our assets should be a priority in Jasper and Walker County. How can we accomplish this if we don’t have a vision, a plan, leadership, and cooperation? I noticed that the City Council passed the budget on Tuesday before the event on Friday. Shouldn’t we plan ahead? Shouldn’t we have an events coordinator for our city? Could we place events on tourism calendars, in travel magazines, talk on television and other influential media?

With the promotion of all of our assets will come growth and a larger tax base to fund the city operations and a better quality of living. Isn’t that what we want for our community?

How can we make this happen? Why can’t we all just get along?


Debbie Young Sanders