The Chamber of Commerce wants people to know they have listened to suggestions and are making changes to the Marble Festival, coming October 7-8 this year.
Last week, Chamber Executive and Economic Development Director Gerry Nechvatal said they have held numerous planning sessions, invited members of the community to give input and, based on suggestions they are both expanding the festival with new attractions and bringing back some past favorites.
Nechvatal said there were three areas they identified as priorities: 1. Refocus on arts and crafts; 2. Have more value for people inside the gates; 3. Have a bigger impact on local businesses.
“It is going to be bigger and better for the community,” he said. “But at the same time, we are going back to our roots.”
Among efforts inside the gates are a larger children’s area. The Chamber is working with a volunteer group with a proven track record to bring in a lively kid’s area but they are not ready to release full details at this time.
They are also going to add a mountain arts and crafts demonstration area inside the gates, under the trees at Lee Newton Park, longtime home of the festival.
Also new this year is a Segway course, where festival-goers can hop on the two-wheeled motorized scooters and take a spin.
And coming back from the past is a full arts show, with works on display and for sale. Nechvatal said it was repeatedly commented on that the festival used to be better when there was more emphasis on the arts, so they are reviving it this year and will continue to ramp up the arts portion in future years. “We are shifting all the retail vendors to downtown to make more room for arts and crafts inside the festival,” he said.
Outside the gates, the festival has also joined with some partners and added more entertainment options. “We have really reached out to new groups and want to see this be a community event,” Nechvatal said.
Additions to the festival:
• A concert by Jacob Bryant in downtown Jasper on the Saturday night of the festival. As the festival winds down for the day, the Chamber is offering this free concert to cap off the evening for festival goers.
• Fly-in at airport – To add options and attract new faces, the festival and the Pickens airport are going to coordinate aviation demonstrations and activities at the airport with local pilots and planes and invite other pilots to visit Jasper during the festival. A shuttle bus will connect the airport, festival grounds and downtown.
• Marble Festival Main Street Experience – The Chamber partnered with the Jasper Merchants Association to expand in downtown Jasper. There will be music and vendors selling retail items and food. Haley Bouchie, president of the Jasper Merchants, said they are excited to add events and be involved this year. “We have put a lot of work into it so hopefully it will turn out well,” she said.
She said they will offer entertainment all day in front of the courthouse and work with merchants to help them gain exposure with people coming to the Jacob Bryant concert. She said the retail booths for the Main Street Experience include products like Scentsy, Pampered Chef and Avon.
• Trolley service – The Talking Rock Trolley will connect downtown and will be a fun ride around town from the festival.
All the standard attractions will return such as the 5K road race, beauty pageant and parade, as well as the always popular quarry tours. Festival-goers should remember that the quarry tours always sell out ahead of time and they should book now at www.georgiamarblefestival.com. Also see the website for specific information on each event.