Friday, June 22, 2012
The 25th annual — and likely the last — Harborwalk Festival will be held this Saturday — but for the first time it will not be on Front Street.
Georgetown City Council would not approve having the event on Front Street this year, so organizer Peggy Wayne relocated the festival to the Carroll Campbell Marine Complex in Maryville.
She said it will be very much like the festival that has been held in the Historic District “but just at a different location.”
She is expecting at least 75 vendors with arts, crafts, food, games and many other things for the entire family.
Wayne said from the time the festival begins at 9 a.m. until it wraps up at 6 p.m., there will be something for everyone.
There will be live entertainment which will include a variety of music throughout the day.
History of the festival
The first Harborwalk Festival — which was supposed to be a one-time event — was held in 1988 to celebrate the opening of the Harborwalk boardwalk which helped revitalize the downtown area which had been suffering a decline in business for years.
However, the day was such a huge success it was decided to make it an annual event.
It was originally run by the Downtown Georgetown Revitalization Association, but in 1994 an organizer from Columbia was hired to put that year’s festival together. The expense made that impractical the next year which is when Wayne got permission to become the organizer with the help of the Business and Professional Women group.
A few years ago, some merchants on Front Street began to complain about the festival, saying it hurt their business. Some said it was not the same type of event as the annual Wooden Boat Show which also draws a crowd to Front Street.
Wayne defended the festival saying it was not meant to be “an upscale festival or one of the great art festivals” that are held at other times of the year throughout the county.
Earlier this year, Mayor Jack Scoville expressed his displeasure of holding the festival on Front Street. He said he has the right as mayor to make decisions about when events will be held. He said those decisions are made by staff and he is in charge of the staff.
“For the past 15 years, the festival has steadily gone downhill,” Scoville said.
Wayne disagrees, saying the festival always attracts several thousand people and helps fill hotel rooms and restaurants the weekend it is held.
A quarter of a century is enough
Wayne said two main factors have helped her decide this will be the final Harborwalk Festival.
She said since the festival no longer has the support of City Council and many of the Front Street merchants, she is ready to put her efforts into something else.
“The festival should be on Front Street. It’s a downtown festival but they don’t want it there. But, it will be a very successful day at the boat landing,” Wayne said.
Because the parking lot at the Marine Complex is city property and the grassy areas surrounding the parking lot are in the county, Wayne has been told all the vendors must set up on the grass.
She also said because it has been a quarter of a century, that is a good year in which to end.
“It has been 25 years. That is a time of completion,” she said.
By Scott Harper