This year’s festival will have some new features, including new vendors and performing acts. Kat Latham, co-owner of Johnson City Brewing Company and chairman for the festival, said organizers with the festival and the Downtown Merchants Association have been working hard to make this year bigger than last, the festival’s first year.
“The Merchants Association and others have worked so hard to make this happen, and I am extremely grateful for everything everyone has done. They’ve really stepped up,” Latham said. “It’s an incredibly awesome thing to witness.”
Latham said one notable addition to the festival will be the petting zoo on Roan Street, where volunteers from Unicoi County High School will be helping set up the tent. Though she said it took a while for organizers to convince some city officials, the addition is something Latham is particularly excited about.
“Folks are going to see a lot of the same things from last year, with some new additions including a DJ stage for teens and tweens on Spring Street, as well as a petting zoo in the family zone,” Latham said. “The petting zoo will be huge. I had seen it done at the Great Outdoors Festival in Erwin, and it's just a great piece for the kids.”
Aside from the new activities being offered at the festival, festivals like the Blue Plum Festival and Little Chicago also serve another important function beyond providing residents a fun experience. They also help bolster the local economy, particularly the growing economy of the downtown district.
“The festivals that come downtown bring hundreds of thousands of dollars to downtown merchants,” Latham said. “That money makes a difference between them making it and not making it.”
Last year, the festival was a success due to the enthusiasm and involvement of the community, according to Latham. Despite this, the festival is still in need of more volunteers. Latham said it would be “amazing” to see at least 50 more volunteers show up to assist the festival. More specifically, Latham said she encourages volunteers with experience helping people with special needs to come out as well.
“The people of the city and staff see that we need the people’s help,” Latham said. “We just need to continue to get the word out to the people to come out to downtown.
“It’s an exciting place to be, and if you’re going off of the reputation years ago and not coming out, you’re missing out.”
For more information on this year’s festival and schedule of events and activities, as well as information on how to volunteer for the second annual Little Chicago Festival, visit www.littlechicagofestival.com or check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/littlechicagofestival.