Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Grease is lighting up The Square

by Holly Hollman

Grease is turning the lights back on for The Square.

The Spirit of Athens Board has voted to use money raised at the festival to install LED lights on store fronts on The Square. The board’s long-range plan is to install LED lights to outline the top of all buildings on The Square and leading up to The Square to create a city skyline. The entire project is estimated to cost $30,000.

This board voted to spend up to $7,000 on this first phase.

“We hope to have the lights installed in time for the holidays,” said Spirit of Athens Director Trisha Black. “We all remember how The Square used to look lit up for Christmas, but then those lights wore out, and we’ve been working to replace them with more energy efficient lights that have a longer lifespan.”

Board President Derrick Young said he would like to see the downtown area lit up not only at Christmas time.

“I say use them all the time because that makes downtown look lively,” Young said.

The Athens Grease Festival was held the last Saturday in September and drew an estimated 4,500 people to The Square. That’s based on tickets sold to adults, an estimate on the number of children who attended and the number of vendors. After expenses, the festival generated $9,500.

“The first year you do a festival like this, you are usually lucky if you break even or if you don’t lose money,” Young said. “We made nearly $10,000. That’s amazing, especially since the work on the festival really was done in a short amount of time.”

Plans for the festival to celebrate all things fried and the Greek origin of the city’s name began in April. The plan was the result of a city branding campaign when the branding consultants fell in love with the city’s Greek Revival architecture and food and submitted an Athens Grease Festival logo.

The festival drew the attention of Alabama Public Radio, which led to a visit by University of Alabama at Birmingham assistant professor of nutrition sciences, Beth Kitchin. She has a blog called “The Kitchin sink,” and APR wanted to interview her about Alabama’s obesity rate.

“But this was no typical media request on the rising obesity rate.  This was a story on the inaugural Athens Grease Festival in Athens,” Kitchin wrote in her blog. “The festival has much going for it: a clever geographic play on words, a charming Mayberry-like downtown square with plenty of municipal buildings sporting Greek columns in ode to its ancient Mediterranean namesake, Alabama “Athenians” dressed in togas, and of course, lots of fried foods.  Who could resist?”

Kitchin particularly enjoyed the fried green tomatoes and wrote that eating healthy doesn’t mean avoiding those foods you love. She recommends the 80/20 rule of eating healthy food 80 percent of the time.

Black said based on public’s response to the festival and the money generated, SOA volunteers have decided to hold it again in 2013 on the last Saturday in September.

No comments:

Post a Comment