All week, people have been experiencing the fun and excitement that goes on inside the gates of the Appalachian Fair. What goes on outside, however, is a parking war of epic proportions.
People trying to park cars will go out of their ways to get attention from those passing by. They stand along the side of the road yelling as they wave flags and signs. Anywhere there’s room, they’ll park a car. The lots closest to the main gate charge $4, while those willing to walk a little farther can get away with $3 and $2 parking.
At the corner of Gray Station Road and Chapel Street, the Gray Knights cheerleading squad and two members of Gray United Methodist Church stood across from one another coaxing people into their lots. As traffic increased, so did the level of yelling and chants.
“Four dollars! Easy in, easy out,” said John Boone, a member of Gray UMC.
“Four dollar parking, four dollar parking,” a group of cheerleaders shouted between claps.
The squad parked cars at Gray School from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with the help of their parents. Two fathers, Wayne Harris and Jamey Friday, were relentless in their efforts. They made sure to tell anyone with a window down that proceeds would be given to the cheerleaders. In fact, the group is looking to raise $5,000 for a trip to Disney World so they can march in the parade on Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s been kind of hard to get cars to come in here,” said Megan Knight, an eighth-grade cheerleader. “We just stand out there and we’ll yell, make up cheers and shake our signs and pom poms and eventually they’ll turn in here.”
Because of their cheer experience, the girls didn’t have a hard time projecting their voices toward potential customers. When asked why people chose them over the lot across the street, Knight giggled and said, “They might like us better because we’re younger.”
Across the street, Boone and Frank Barnes continually pointed to open spots available in the Gray Station Dental lot, which the church uses for parking during the week of the fair. They’ve been working all week to raise money for Gray UMC.
“We put in the time out here and they have the fun in there,” Barnes said. “Most of these people are one-timers and they don’t know where they’re going, so we have to persuade them to come here.”
On the final and busiest day of the fair, anyone parking cars was looking to wind up the week with a big profit.
“The competition is fierce. You can hear the shouting behind me,” said Amy Knight, a parent and fourth-grade teacher at Gray School. “There’s parking all the way up to the school and all the way down the street, so we’re just right in the middle and $4 per vehicle seems to fit. People are happy to pay it.”
With 400 spaces available, Gray UMC will raise about $10,000 through their weeklong parking service. Half the money will go toward the building of a new student ministry center for junior high and high school students and the rest will be divvied out to other church ministries.
“The weather has been really good and we have parked a lot of cars and had a great time,” said Eric Barnes, a member of Gray UMC. “We just try to wave our orange flags, let them know we’re here and at a reasonable price.”
Since parking and attendance go hand-in-hand, it was a successful week for the Appalachian Fair, too, with 164,021 attendees Monday through Friday. More than 50,000 people came through the gates on Friday and even more were expected Saturday.