Big Shanty Festival in Kennesaw moves forward

Kennesaw City Hall in article about Kennesaw events road closuresKennesaw government complex (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

The year 2020 has not been kind to special events, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic causing countless cancellations, but the City of Kennesaw is hoping the Big Shanty Festival will still be able to take place.

The downtown event is organized by the Kennesaw Business Association and was originally scheduled for the spring. Due to the pandemic, it was rescheduled for Nov. 7 and 8.

As the new dates approached, organizers asked the Kennesaw City Council for approval to move ahead with preparations. The request passed 3-0, with council members Tracey Viars and Doc Eaton recusing themselves due to downtown business ties.

The decision does not guarantee the festival will take place as infection rates and state guidelines may change. However, KBA board member Mike Everhart told the council Monday, “I really think the community needs some saving again. We are isolated and divided, and we need to come back together.”

According to Everhart, the festival started almost 50 years ago as Trade Days – an effort to save downtown Kennesaw and promote local businesses. It has grown into a gathering that draws about 70,000 people, however, organizers will be scaling back this year’s event due to the pandemic.

KBA submitted a safety plan to the city, which describes the steps that will be taken to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, including:

*Festival will be spread out over more territory. Expected vendors are about half the usual amount and booths will be spread eight feet apart.

*Signage will be placed at entrances to instruct people not to enter if they have been diagnosed, been exposed to or have symptoms of COVID-19.

*All workers in contact with patrons are required to wear masks.

*Hand sanitizer stations will be provided.

*Bathrooms and surfaces are to be sanitized frequently by workers.

*Bathrooms will be trailers with running water and soap.

*Social distancing stickers will be used in front of vendors.

*Performances will not include group singing, but dancing or martial arts performances will be permitted in smaller groups.

*Attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs and spread out at least six feet apart. Spray painted squares may be used to mark spaces.

*No parade will take place this year.

Budget

After two public hearings, council approved the 2021 budget with a vote of 4-1, with David Blinkhorn as the lone nay.

Finance Director Gina Auld presented the proposed $25 million budget, an increase of 1% from last year. Kennesaw City Council already approved the millage rate of 8 mills, which has remained unchanged since 2008. The overall tax revenue is budgeted at a 3% increase.

Highlights from the budget include:

*No employee cost of living adjustment due to the effects of COVID-19

*Recommends unfreezing full-time position of assistant public works director and part-time zoning clerk

*Nine positions are being reclassified to better align with job responsibilities, mostly in relation to the new recreation center

*Four new part-time positions have been created for recreation center facility monitors and for one business license compliance officer

*$807,588 will go into the city’s reserve operating account

According to Auld, the reserve account is at $4.9 million, which is about three months worth of operating expenses. The recommendation is to have two-four months in reserve. It can be read in full here.

Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.

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