Bad economy? Not at Village Fest
By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS ó Helicopters circling overhead, giving sightseeing tours.
Kids bowling on one street and cheering on an inflatable playset on the next block.
Bands playing Christian music and southern rock on stages at either end of downtown.
Faces of the recession? Maybe so, but most all of them were smiling at Village Fest.
The street fair that started out as Spring Fever Fest and was later known as Cottonstock celebrated its 30th anniversary this weekend, organizer Brenda Drye said.
“We’re happy to be bringing this to the citizens, to the community,” said Drye, executive director of the Cabarrus Events Association.
She said the weekend was a success. Vendors from across the region filled downtown streets with food and assorted wares.
There were safety demonstrations provided by the Kannapolis Police Department, healthy living demonstrations from CMC-NorthEast and a variety of free activities for kids.
And though the line of thunderstorms that moved through the area around 5 p.m. called off the scheduled hot air balloon show, headline musical act SuperGlide returned to the stage after the storms cleared, followed by a fireworks display to wind up the night. A number of vendors reopened as the skies cleared and a crowd of several hundred returned to enjoy the festivities.
“People were enjoying themselves until it rained,” Drye said. “We were disappointed … But people have said it was awesome.”
This year’s Village Fest had a new treat: helicopter rides organized by the North Carolina Research Campus with Lanier Media and Charlotte Helicopters.
Lanier Media provides aerial photography for the Research Campus and other area real estate and consumer projects.
Owner Guy Maher took Village Fest visitors aloft in his Robinson R22 Beta II, a small helicopter he uses for photography and special assignments.
“This gives people a taste of aviation,” Maher said. “There’s so many people who would never get a chance to have this experience.”
The five-minute rides took riders up from the Research Campus across from K-Town Furniture and showed a panorama of Kannapolis from several hundred feet up.
Many kids begged their families for a ride. “It was great!” said Preston Mays, 10, of Kannapolis. It was his first time in an aircraft.
“It was cool being able to see what everyone else is doing,” he said. “It’s not something you get to do every day.”
Perhaps the youngest flyer to go “solo” ó riding in the copter by himself with the pilot ó was Patrick Gulledge, age 5.
Asked what his favorite thing to see from the air was, Gulledge pointed to the dome of the Core Lab at the nearby Research Campus.
Village Fest was fun for families, but also provided an opportunity for area entrepreneurs.
Crafts, jewelry and food are perennial sellers at Village Fest and this year’s event drew the largest yet number of vendors, Drye said.
Such events are a main way of getting exposure for a small businesses.
Kristin Vick is co-owner of Lollipop Creations, based in Charlotte. Vick makes “custom” candy suckers in different shapes, sizes, colors and flavors.
“We’re an Internet-based company, so we’re trying to get out to festivals in the area,” Vick said.
“Another vendor suggested Village Fest,” she said. And she said the experience was positive.
“People see what we have and they look us up when they get home,” Vick said.
Kannapolis photographer Chad Mitchell, whose pictures of the Cannon Mills complex were on sale at Village Fest, said he had had a lot of “lookers,” but few big sales.
His top sellers were smaller pictures on foam backing, including ones he’s taken of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I’ve sold a couple of dozen of them,” Mitchell said.
But the day was still enjoyable: less than five yards off his family sat in lawn chairs in the shade.
“They sit there and yell over, ‘We got you a burger,'” Mitchell said.
Families all over enjoyed the day’s festivities, especially free events.
Foxfire Lanes in Kannapolis had a makeshift bowling alley with plastic pins and a soft foam ball to roll. Kids got a free pass for playing.
One of those bowlers was Alexandria Dayvault, 7, who was enjoying a “girls’ day out” with her mother, Sandra. They live in Kannapolis and come to Village Fest every year.
Those local visitors are the ones local agencies hoped to get involved in several outreach efforts.
Sergeant Terry Spry of the Kannapolis Police Department showed off the city’s new traffic response unit, a trailer to serve as a center of checkpoint operations for sobriety checks and speed enforcement.
“It will also be used to bring equipment to traffic crash scenes for re-creations,” Spry said.
Also on hand was the American Red Cross Bloodmobile, collecting blood donations.
The goal was 25 units, but Nancy Litton, executive director of the Cabarrus County Red Cross, said more than 30 responded, although not all were able to donate.
“We’re amazed by the generosity of the folks who came out here to have fun,” Litton said.
Brenda Drye also mentioned the strong response from local churches who came out, not just to sell food, but to meet the community.
“All they wanted to do was introduce themselves to the newcomers in Kannapolis,” Drye said.
All in all, the economy and the weather combined couldn’t stop the fun.
“I don’t know if everybody was spending, but I know families were having a good time,” Drye said. “That’s what it’s about.”