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Chamber director estimates festival crowd again reached 100,000Chamber director estimates festival crowd again reached 100,000

Although more accurate figures won’t be available for a couple of weeks, Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Delp said on Monday that the 34th Annual Apple Festival drew its usual crowd of 100,000 or more people to the streets of downtown Erwin this year.
“That would be my gut feeling, just based on our early projections,” Delp said. “The trends were a little different this year, but I feel like it will still balance out to about the same crowd.”
One example Delp gave of differing trends for the 2011 festival was the initial four-hour block of the festival, from 8 a.m. to noon on Friday.
“That time period was actually a lot busier than it has been in previous years,” Delp said. “Normally, we don’t see a very large crowd on Friday until around noon.”
Delp said hotter temperatures were most likely to blame for a considerable thinning of the festival crowd around the 2 p.m. hour.
“It did get pretty hot in the afternoon,” Delp said. “Otherwise, I feel like we would have seen the typical spike of people between noon and 3 p.m.”
Delp said that on Saturday, the festival crowd remained heavy throughout the day, just as it has done in previous years.
“Our largest numbers on Saturday were around the noon hour,” Delp said. “Saturday is usually always the heavier day.”
This year’s festival featured 276 vendors, occupying 354 booth spaces throughout the downtown business district. Delp added that the event was the smoothest one yet for her.
“I say this each year, and I don’t know if it just comes with experiences, but it seems like it gets easier every year,” she said. “It was very calm this year. There were no major disturbances or incidents. Nothing we haven’t seen before. It was just a very good year.”
Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson noted that although traffic was “congested, as usual,” the logistics of the festival went “as smooth as they could go considering the amount of people in the area.”
Tilson said the Johnson City Police Department allowed the Erwin Police Department use of a mobile command center, which was parked in the lot behind the Unicoi County Courthouse.
“It turned out to be quite handy,” Tilson said. “It gave us all a good central location.”
Tilson said EPD officers, as well as EMS workers and fire department employees, were able to use the command center during the event.
Tilson said the EPD made only one arrest during the festival, with charges of public intoxication, possession of a Schedule IV substance and possession of drug paraphernalia charges placed.
Another concern during the festival was the fact that some attendees brought their pets to the event. Unicoi County Animal Control Officer Tim Shelton said some people were asked to leave the festival with their animals.
“We just explained to them why we had to have (the rule),” Shelton said. “They pretty much understood it, but other than that, we really didn’t have any problems.”
Shelton said he advised some patrons to visit a vendor on Tucker Street, who was selling enclosed pet strollers and handbags.
“As long as the animal was put in an enclosed environment, it was fine,” Shelton concluded.
Erwin City Recorder Randy Trivette reported that he had heard “no negative feedback” about this year’s festival, and even said the initial setup in downtown Erwin on Thursday evening went smoother than in previous years.
“The cleanup also went very well, but I think the weather really contributed to that,” Trivette said.
Trivette commended the 13 employees with the town’s public works department, who “made sure trash was emptied and that things stayed clean.”
He said street department workers worked from approximately 10 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday cleaning the streets downtown. “And, as usual, by Sunday morning, you couldn’t even tell there’s been a festival in town.”
Trivette concluded that this year’s festival will join previous years in terms of the success they bring to the town.
“Every year is an achievement for the town as far as bringing in new people so that they can see what the town has to offer,” Trivette said. “I think it’s a big plus for the businesses also. We normally see a pretty good spike in our sales tax for the month of October.
Delp said data will be analyzed over the course of the next few weeks in an effort to ascertain more exact attendance figures for the Apple Festival.
“When I came to the Chamber 11 festivals ago, we developed a regression correlation formula to try to determine attendance,” Delp explained. “It’s based on the square footage of the festival grounds, and we do counts on specific areas at certain times, and then plug that into the formula.”
Delp said the Chamber will also take into account the amount of traffic in the area over the course of the festival’s two days, as well as revenues for the month when those figures are available.
Delp commended her fellow Chamber of Commerce employees – Cathy Huskins and Dawn Edwards – for helping to ensure the Apple Festival was executed smoothly.
“I also really would like to put my thanks out there to Tim Lingerfelt and Louie Shelton, as well as the town of Erwin and its street, police and fire departments,” Delp concluded. “Without them and all of our booth volunteers who worked tirelessly to set up and clean up, we could not have had as much success as we did.”
Delp said 75 vendors have already registered to renew their booth spaces for the 35th festival, which is set for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 5-6, 2012.