City officials discuss prep for Festival of Discovery
July 11, 2018
After the faint swing of blues music and the heat of pit cookers wafted away from Greenwood’s Main Street last summer, Uptown Greenwood’s Festival of Discovery crew reconvened to discuss what worked and what didn’t, and so began preparations for the 2018 festival.
Although planning for the festival is a 365-day ordeal, the action really begins in early February. On the first of the month, organizers opened up an online portal for competitors and vendors to register for their spot at the festival. This online method, said Assistant City Manager Julie Wilkie, puts the responsibility of picking out and paying for a booth location into the hands of the barbecuers and vendors, whereas before festival organizers were responsible for this task.
Wilkie said the event has become so popular that out of 92 spots for both competitive and non-competitive barbecuers, 70 were filled within only two days of the opening of online registration.
Judges, too, are eager to participate in the Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned competition. Of the 160 certified KCBS judges who applied, only 112 were chosen.
The judges aren’t paid, but come to the festival because they enjoy it and are treated well, said Uptown Manager Lara Hudson.
About two weeks prior to the festival, implementation for the detour route began using plans that were completed in early April, after competitors, vendors and musicians were registered.
The detour route isn’t as easy as setting a few traffic barricades Uptown. Since it involves a U.S. highway, the city must follow specific instructions issued by the Federal Highway Administration that detail how to close a road with that volume of traffic, City Manager Charlie Barrineau explained.
The city also works closely with the state Department of Transportation to develop a plan which is coherent and effective to drivers and festival attendees. Barrineau said changes in the detour over the years of the festival have been crucial in boosting the event.
Greenwood’s Main Street will be blocked off between Court and Seaboard avenues to allow solely pedestrian traffic beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday. At this time, city employees and police will begin implementing the detour, which consists of closing roads, directing traffic, sliding barricades and bringing in rigs. Wilkie described this process as “a flurry of activity” and said precision is important. For details on the detour, visit uptowngreenwood.com/events/road-closures.
Two other critical aspects of the festival are power and water. Wilkie said the Festival of Discovery is unique in that the city has permanent underground power and water sources at each team location, thanks to a partnership with Greenwood Commissioners of Public Works. The permanent power outlets make it so “each team just pulls in and plugs up,” Wilkie said. Because the power is in such close proximity to the teams and vendors, she described the setup as a “temporary campground.”
In regard to the physical and electrical layouts for the festival, Barrineau said, “We pride ourselves in how clean and free we keep our walk lanes so the public can walk without worrying of a trip hazard.”
Each year, organizers work to make the festival more accommodating to competitors, vendors and attendees. One way of doing that is by providing clear directions. Wilkie said they work a lot on directional signage, both for drivers and pedestrians. In addition to notifying festival attendees where they can and cannot have alcohol, large banners will also denote restroom locations.
Hudson explained a change in the restroom layout for this year’s festival will mean more convenience and accessibility for festival-goers and participants. Portable units will be setup in clusters of six to eight, complete with a handwashing station.
Another new component to this year’s festival is Kids Que. This event, which will be held at the Uptown Market on Friday night, is a barbecue competition open to children ages 6-15. Competitive young barbecue connoisseurs will prepare pork in fully stocked cooking stations, just as the KCBS competitors, to be turned in to judges. Winners will be announced Saturday during the presentation of awards.
Before the barbecue festivities kick off, festival goers can enjoy blues music at a number of Uptown venues. City organizers have contracted with Gary Erwin, also known as Shrimp City Slim, as the artistic director of the Blues Cruise for the past 18 years. This year, Erwin has recruited 28 blues artists to put on 48 performances throughout the festival weekend.
All performances, beginning Thursday night and continuing through Saturday, are free. Music lovers can choose their venue based on the type of blues they prefer, whether it be heavy on the saxophone or quick on the drums.
Barrineau described the preparation and implementation of the festival as a “team building exercise for city staff,” all of whom, he said, work hard to ensure the event’s success.
“We have thousands of people come (to the festival), and this is Greenwood’s time to shine,” Barrineau concluded.