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Director recaps successful Blue Plum Festival

June 10th, 2013 10:10 pm by Kayla Carter

Director recaps successful Blue Plum Festival


Three days of free entertainment brought talented musicians, inspired artists and decadent festival food to Johnson City residents and visitors during the 14th annual 2013 Blue Plum Festival this past weekend. 


2013 Blue Plum Festival Director Brandi Woodall said the turnout as she perceived it was great.


“Just visually speaking, I would say that our attendance was definitely not down,” Woodall said. “We had more people turnout on Friday and even some of the downtown restaurants were saying they had three times more business on Friday than they have had in years prior.”


More specifics on the festival’s impact on Johnson City is expected by the end of the week, but Woodall said attendance is estimated to be about the same as last year.


“It’s a little early and I still don’t have official numbers yet,” Woodall said. “I haven’t been in touch with the city at this point, but I’m sure we will get the official numbers in the next day or so.”


Most of the feedback from downtown business owners and police officers so far has been positive, Woodall said.


Johnson City Police Chief Mark Sirois was unable to be reached for comment.


A city police bike patrol squad arrested two individuals during the festival who reportedly burglarized a vehicle on Buffalo Street. 


“Overall I think everything went smoothly,” Woodall said.


Woodall said the bike patrol was a great idea to implement during the festival and a new tent arrangement helped keep the streets in better view.


“They were able to visually see a lot more up and down Main Street and I think that helped them patrol a little bit better,” Woodall said. “For the most part, police seemed to think it was easy going.


“I think the big thing for us is that we just want to make sure everybody is safe,” Woodall said.


With a focus on expanding family activities and bringing more music downtown, Woodall said that goal for the 2013 Blue Plum was actively sought.


“I think we are definitely moving in the right direction,” Woodall said.


The expanded use of technology such as Square, which allows remote credit and debit card transactions, boosted Blue Plum Festival merchandise sales and expedited wristband wait times, Woodall said.


“We were able to gauge ... when we were the most busy at some of our gateways,” Woodall said about the use of technology in general. “It changed a lot for the festival.”


Street performances are another topic on Woodall’s mind for the future of the festival.


“We do welcome that to some extent,” Woodall said. “What we wanted to avoid this year really was honestly people with their hats out collecting money. These vendors pay a lot to be there and we have sponsors that pay a lot to be there.” 


A street performance system may be considered for future festivals, Woodall said.


“At the same time, as a music lover and a downtown business owner, I really want to be able to open that up a little bit,” Woodall said. “We are looking at a permitting system so we can bring in more street performers and what are called buskers so that we’ll be able to branch out and include those acoustic performances.”


One idea is to have those performers reserve a time block and one of a few pre-selected parts of the street prior to the festival.


“I won’t say that it has been a negative, it’s just one of those things,” Woodall said. “When you go to some of the larger festivals, there’s music at every turn. It doesn’t always have to be amplified.”


Partnerships with community organizations to create two-day activities like the Urban Art Throwdown and Animation Festival keep fans of the festival coming back each year to see new and already established talent, while a 5K race catered to running enthusiasts solely on Saturday.


Also, the addition of a revival on the last day of the festival may have some Blue Plum fans wondering what new elements will be incorporated in the future and how it might be expanded. 


“We had a couple thousand people just on Sunday,” Woodall said. 


An arts and craft vendor told Woodall she doubled her sales compared to last year on Sunday and Woodall attributes that to the addition of the revival and the popularity of the Omnium.


“The bike race does draw several hundred people,” Woodall said. “I think with the addition of the revival and opening that up to a few hundred more people that traditionally go downtown on Sundays definitely drove up the foot traffic for the vendors and food court.”


Woodall said the revival is a keeper for the Blue Plum Festival.


“I do think that that’s something we are going to continue to grow on Sundays,” Woodall said. “It’s still early on, but we had a lot of positive feedback from people that were involved — so much that we’ve already had a sponsor step in a say they want to be a part of it next year.” 


The food court was invited to stick around a little longer this year because the Omnium race track’s course was updated.


“We didn’t have to have them out of there on Sunday because the route changed,” Woodall said. “A lot of the food court vendors were very appreciative for that. They got some extended hours during Saturday night.”


Woodall said on Friday that she was also excited to give VIP access to sponsors, special supporters and media by creating an area near the train track at Fountain Square near the Main Street Stage for Saturday night’s festival.


“We decided since the festival is outside, the VIPs should be outside,” Woodall said. “Without those people, we could not keep this a free festival.”


The next step for Blue Plum Festival volunteers is to evaluate and improve upon this year’s festival in anticipation of the 2014 Blue Plum Festival.


Woodall was urged to get on stage Saturday, which is the night she said always has the most attendance, to say a few words about the festival.


“I just wanted to thank everybody for coming. I tell you, when you’re standing on stage looking out at probably 20,000 people, that’s intimidating,” she said with a laugh.


Woodall encourages those interested in helping with next year’s Blue Plum Festival to e-mail director@blueplum.org.

For all Johnson City Press 2013 Blue Plum Festival coverage, visit our Blue Plum section online.

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