Rain dampens crowds, not enthusiasm at Old Timers Spring Festival

The rain fell on the Townsend Old-Timer’s Spring Festival the first weekend in May, but vendors and visitors still showed up for the annual event.

Herb Handly, vice president of the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, said the weather was not in the festival’s favor during the May 2 event. “That obviously impacts the attendance to some extent,” he said. “However, we still had a full house, and we had people from a lot of the adjoining states - Ohio, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina.”

Handly said there were probably 30 or more bands playing under the pavilion. “Pickers were on the porch and under the tents and everywhere you looked,” he said. “We felt very good considering the adverse weather. Travel is somewhat off this year due to the economy but we were pleasantly surprised many of the regulars we have that attended the festival were present. We were very pleased.”

Handly said events such as the spring festival continue to be important to Blount County and Townsend because they bring in overnight visitors to the area. While Townsend is a good destination for visitors, Handly said is becoming more important to have activities for visitors.

“You have to have activities that catch people’s attention and draw them to the area,” he said. “We have found that is becoming more and more important for our program of getting people to come to our destination.”

Handly said the convention and visitor’s bureau continues to pay a lot of attention to these kinds of events and looks for ways to improve them. “So far we think we’re really on track,” he said.

Handly said the sour economy is affecting tourism in Blount County. “There are fewer people on the road. Obviously people who don’t have jobs are not going to be traveling. Those who do have jobs are not going to go far away from home,” he said. “There is just simply less money out there for our travelers to spend, and they’re being a little more particular about where their destination is going to be and how much money they’re spending.”

Handly said it is obvious everyone has been impacted by the slow economy. “We’re hoping with some of the new economic news coming out, maybe certain segments of our industry will begin to show some improvement,” he said.

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