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News Franklin tourism board approves billboards and Folk Festival funding

Franklin's Tourism Development Authority met at Town Hall on Monday for its monthly meeting in order to consider various funding requests as well as listen to two presentations concerning local events that could be eligible for grants at next month's meeting.

At last month's meeting, Main Street Program Director Linda Schlott went before the board to request a total of $1,500 for the 11th annual Folk Festival that is set to take place on July 19. The money would be used to advertise on the radio and various regional publications.

The festival is free and takes place between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. in downtown Franklin. As one of the most popular festivals to take place in Franklin, event goers experience demonstrators who display heritage skills from the turn of the century, musicians playing and singing mountain songs, square dancers, food vendors and many other culture specific activities.

Schlott's request estimated around 3,500 attendees at last year's event and saw people from 23 of the 50 states. Sign-in sheets at the First Baptist Church and Tartan Hall showed visitors from as far as California, Colorado and Texas as well as closer states like Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee and many in between.

Upon reconvening at this month's meeting, little discussion came about before making a decision. Board member Mike Gruberman made a motion to approve the $1,500 grant with Summer Woodard seconding. The board agreed unanimously.

The board members also voted to approve two new billboards in the last leg of the 2013-2014 fiscal year's marketing campaign. The digital advertisements are placed strategically in the Atlanta area.

Two new requests come before the board

Doug Morton was present at the meeting to make a request for $2,500 to be spent in promotion of this year’s Taste of Scotland and Celtic Festival.

According to Morton, at last year's festival there were about 3,500 to 4,000 attendees for the celebration of Scots-Irish heritage.

“This year we are looking to expand our advertising into other areas that are within driving distance of Franklin,” he said pointing out the states that some came from last year. “We had people that came from New York and even one couple who came all the way from New Mexico last year. We're hoping this year's event will be even bigger and better than last year's event.”

Board members met to approve a previous request on behalf of the Main Street Program concerning July’s Folk Festival. They also were presented with requests for the Taste of Scotland Festival and the Cowee Heritage Center.The festival is set to take place on June 10—the same day as the Scottish Festival in Asheville, which raised some concerns from board members.

“I am a little concerned that it will take place on the same day as the festival in Asheville,” board member Matt Bateman told Morton and the other board members. “Maybe in the future you could meet with them to work out a cross promotional event. You could hold them on consecutive weekends and then people could plan a whole week around the two festivals in western North Carolina.”

Assuring the board that the plan was already set into motion to meet with Asheville officials, Morton assured the board that despite being on the same day last year, the one held in the biggest WNC city had little effect on the local event.

“Our festival really wasn't affected by theirs. Where they charge $25 per person, ours is free,” said Morton. “We had people who said they deliberately chose to come to the Franklin festival because of that.”

The board will reconvene next month to decide if they will approve the grant.

Barry Clinton was also at the meeting in order to request a sum of $2,500 on behalf of the Cowee Community Development Organization/Cowee School for the 2014 Historic Cowee School Concert Series.

Though the school where the concerts will take place is located outside of the city limits, the TDA could still approve funding if they believe that those who are traveling to the shows will be staying in local motels.

“This year we want Cowee School to be a destination for people to come to,” said Clinton. “We want it to be one more reason that people come to Macon County.”

Multiple members asked if he had approached the Tourism Development Commission (the county entity tasked with providing similar support to the TDA) in which he indicated that he would be approaching them as well.

“We know that the school is in the county, but I still think what we're doing will benefit the Town of Franklin too,” he told them.

The goals laid out by the grant request are to reach markets within a 150 mile radius of Franklin by running newspaper and radio ads.

The board will reconvene on May 12 at 5:30 p.m. at the Franklin Town Hall to discuss the new requests.

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