Saturday, April 20, 2024

114 West Elm Street
Graham, NC 27253
Ph: 336.228.7851

Graham’s street festivals: what’s the point?

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Four brave Graham businesswomen came forward at last week’s Graham city council meet to question the city’s policy of closing downtown streets for occasional “special events” sponsored by the city’s Recreation and Parks Department.

In particular, the women, representing three downtown businesses in the 100 block of North Main Street, raised the question of why the city doesn’t consider moving two of the festivals – a so-called Slice of Summer scheduled for Saturday, June 8, and a Pumpkin Bash, scheduled for Friday, October 25, to a nearby Sunday, instead.

The women’s objections, which are quite understandable in our view, are that the city is costing them money by closing the streets in front of their businesses for anywhere from one hour early (in the case of the Pumpkin Bash) to half the day (on Saturdays, which they emphasized are typically their best sales days of the week).

The Rec Department wants to close the roads early in order to “set up” for the festivities: closing Main Street at 1:00 p.m. for the Saturday event, and 4:00 Friday for the 6:00 Pumpkin Bash.

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Our fundamental question is what is the purpose of these city-funded festivals?

What long-term benefit do the taxpayers of Graham get from these events?

Quite frankly, we’re not at all sure there are any long-term benefits.

But, if there are any benefits, it’s hard to imagine how they offset the financial losses that downtown businesses are expected to absorb in order to have the events.

Let us confess also that this newspaper is often disadvantaged by another of the city’s regular Rec events, the Thursdays at Seven concert series, which is set up in the 100 block of West Elm, which affects us at 114 West Elm.

On paper, and as approved by the city council this week, the street closures take effect at 5:00 p.m.  As its name suggests, the concerts begin at 7:00 p.m. Inasmuch as we typically close at 5:00, it shouldn’t affect us much.

But as a practical matter, city officials often begin coming by early or mid-afternoon, asking that employees or customers move their cars from the parking spaces along West Elm Street, including in front of our office building.

So we very much understand and appreciate the even earlier closures that are affecting the Main Street businesses.  (In fact, for the Pumpkin Bash, East and West Elm Streets are closed earlier than North and South Main Streets, 2:00, rather than 4:00.)

Still we think the businesswomen raised very good points that the city council and its recreation and parks department need to consider.

In choices that involve inconvenience for the city workers versus downtown business owners (and thus taxpayers), we’ll vote with the business owning taxpayers every time.

And the inconvenience shouldn’t even be that great.  They’re already working overtime (or with comp time) on Saturdays, so working Sunday afternoons to set up shouldn’t be that much different.

As for the vendors, the city should simply tell them the new days and hours of the event.  If they can still participate, great.  If not, so sad, too bad.

The Slice of Summer event is still three months off, the Halloween-themed event is eight months away.  That should be plenty of time to reconfigure the events so as not to disadvantage the downtown merchants.

Meanwhile, we’d still like to know what the benefit is to having these city-sponsored events, even on a Sunday afternoon/evening?

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