The Downtown Waynesville Association will replace its traditional fall festival in October with a newly coined approach to provide a festive atmosphere on Main Street without the normal trappings of big crowds.
The Church Street Arts and Crafts festival historically held the second Saturday in October has instead been rebranded as “Fall for Waynesville.” Main Street will be blocked to traffic, creating a pedestrian-only environment with street performers.
Restaurants can also set up outdoor dining areas in the street and shops can bring merchandise out onto the sidewalks.
However, there won’t be the normal row of vendor tents and food booths.
“It is an open-street concept, but we aren’t calling it a festival,” said DWA Director Buffy Phillips.
Phillips said the idea is to create a little something special to give merchants and restaurants an extra boost during the fall season in place of the Church Street Arts and Crafts Show.
“This would be another way to get the registers to ring during a weekend when we have a lot of people here anyway,” Phillips said.
Allowing restaurants to set up outdoor dining in the street will also be helpful since indoor seating capacity is limited.
“They are turning over tables as fast as they can, but they can only operate at 50 percent capacity, so they are anxious to be able to add tables,” Phillips said.
Meanwhile, the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce has rebranded its Apple Harvest Festival held the third Saturday in October — now called Apple Harvest Daze. Akin to a pop-up market, it will feature vendors up and down Main Street, but with half the normal volume.
The chamber developed a new layout for the event, that includes tents being more spread out, one-way foot traffic, mandatory mask wearing with mask stations, and eliminating bands to discourage congregating.
Phillips was asked whether the DWA would take similar precautions during its event when appearing before the town board this week for approval.
Alderman Anthony Sutton questioned whether the DWA would have people stationed at either end of Main Street to enforce mask wearing and whether there would a barrier down the middle of the street to help with crowd flow— both of which are part of the chamber’s plans for Apple Harvest Daze.
Phillips said those didn’t seem necessary for Fall for Waynesville, however, since there won’t be vendor tents in the street.
If anything, allowing shops and restaurants to spill outside will provide more crowd dispersal on what would arguably be a busy weekend anyway, as opposed to shoppers packing inside stores.
“We know that folks will be here on Saturdays during color season, and we want to tell our story and show them a good time,” Phillips said.
The DWA will have groups of musicians performing along the street, however, something the chamber won’t have as part of its event.
“What is going to prevent people from congregating around those spots?” Sutton asked, envisioning people clustering around the performers.
“I am hoping everybody is adult enough to back off,” Phillips said.
Janet Metzger, the owner of Burlwood Gallery on Main Street, is pleased with the idea of Fall for Waynesville. Metzger had lobbied for a similar concept back in May as a regular feature throughout the summer rather than just a one-day offering.
Metzger suggested restricting traffic on Main Street to allow outdoor dining on the street as a matter of course.
“I wanted to get people out on the street because people feel more comfortable than being in an enclosed space,” Metzger said.
Metzger also likes the idea of creating a more festive environment with street performers.
“You have to start making it fun for people to come downtown,” she said. “I am hoping this will draw people. If you have live music, it really makes it fun to shop.”
Hopefully it will be something that can grow into a more of a regular event, she said.
“You have to start somewhere. Let’s give it a try and see how it works, then it would be something to look into more often,” she said.
Fall for Waynesville will be held from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 10 and Apple Harvest Daze will be held from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 17.