The following article was written by Adam Smith and published in the News Courier on April 18.
There's a new festival in town
Downtown revitalization group Spirit of Athens will host the inaugural Athens Grease Festival on Sept. 29, and organizers are already reveling in the possibilities.
“We’re having so much fun with it and it’s going to be a fun event to work on,” said Trisha Black, SOA executive director. “I know I can’t come up with all the ideas and I’m trying to reach out to some folks who will want to embrace it.”
The idea for the one-day food festival was borne out of the city’s community image building campaign that kicked off last spring. Consultants with the urban planning firm Arnett Muldrow & Associates suggested the city develop a unified food festival.
“We wanted to have the fried food, but also celebrate the Greek origin of our name,” Black said.
The end result could be a downtown Square full of vendors selling everything from fried Twinkies and Oreos to gyros and yogurt. Black said other ideas have included staging opening ceremonies and the crowning of a Caesar Augustus. It may also give residents a chance to wear a toga in public.
Black said the festival would act as a fundraiser for SOA, which also assists with Art on the Square, Cars on the Square and holiday events. She added vendor spaces would be rented out, and live music may also be staged.
“We’ll be working with merchants and hopefully we’ll only have to close a minimal amount of streets,” she said. “It’s going to be something that people will be interested in.”
The next step, she said, will be to form a committee to work on the festival, but Black also wants plenty of public input. Those who want to offer up ideas are encouraged to post those to the SOA’s Facebook page. She said a website containing information about the festival is also in the works.
Mayor Ronnie Marks said he’s excited about the festival, which could bring in visitors from across the state and region. He said the Sept. 29 date also presents a good opportunity for a big event ahead of the annual The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention held each October.
“This is so neat and it’s another good opportunity for families to come to Athens,” he said. “I think it will be well attended, but I don’t know if I’ll be stuffing a bunch of fried food down.”
For more information on Spirit of Athens, visit http://www.spiritofathens.com.