PHOTO: Vendors selling funnel cakes and ribbon fries are staples at just about any festival, but the 36th annual Main Street Festival also had vendors with important messages to get across. / Photo by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
It could be said that every vendor tells a story.
Whether it’s one handing out samples of Sun Drop, another displaying a range of hand-crafted birdhouses or one of many selling custom-made jewelry, vendors are the lifeblood of just about any festival.
And yes, those at the 36th annual Main Street Festival hosted Saturday and Sunday by the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County have their individual stories. Here are three gathered during the busy weekend:
Don Warden, president of the Law Enforcement Assistance Partnership (LEAP) of Franklin, knows a community is solid when it has a strong bond with its local police department.
And that’s just the case in Franklin, he believes.
“We live in a really unique community,” Warden said from the LEAP booth on Third Avenue South Saturday, “where there’s a great relationship between police officers and the rest of the community. You don’t see that in lots of other places. We think that there are those in the community who would really be happy to help with our efforts to support the police officers and their families.”
That’s just the mission of LEAP, a nonprofit formed primarily by people who have gone through the Franklin Police Department’s Citizen Academy. It provides services to Franklin Police officers and their families in time of need. It also awards five scholarships each year to officers’ children to help them reach the goal of a college degree.
“If an officer sustains an injury while they’re on duty, we’ll help them with any kind of assistance they may need,” Warden said. “They may have a really high expense month where they may have a major automobile repair expense. We help them with that as well.
“It’s all done anonymously, all done through volunteers and through donations from the community.”
Authors Circle of Middle Tennessee
While music could be heard throughout the Main Street Festival, one booth was a little more on the silent side.
It was that of the Authors Circle of Middle Tennessee, a group formed about six years by Nashville author Agatha Nolen and longtime Franklin resident and author Bill Peach. Several writers were gathered in the group’s booth to help promote their own publications but also to collectively support all those in the organization.
“This is Music City, but there’s a lot more than just music being produced here,” said Tom Wood, former journalist with The Tennessean who published his first novel, Vendetta Stone, in 2014.
Wood will be among 48 local writers and other authors participating in the Authors Circle Franklin Book Festival Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, at the Williamson County Public Library on Columbia Pike. The genres represented include children’s books, fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry, among others. Peach is the main organizer of the event, which is free and open to the public.
“I’ve done a festival with 22 authors in 2014,” Peach said, “but never one on this scale.”
Hug a Farmer
In a bright red banner with white lettering, it was clear to anyone who passed by what the motivation must have been for Franklin’s Derrick Aldridge and Erin Davis in their Main Street Festival booth.
Hug a Farmer, the sign said, and while there was no farmer on site to hug, Aldridge and Davis were getting their message across with the T-shirts, caps and other merchandise they were selling by the brand name Hug a Farmer.
Neither are current farmers, but they said they both know how important agriculture is to all the world and they want to do their part in bringing awareness to that fact.
We’re just trying to spread the love for farmers,” said Davis, adding that part of the profit from the merchandise sales goes to the Farmer Veterans Coalition.
Aldridge, who currently works on cell phone towers, grew up on a beef cattle farm in north Alabama and said he was “surrounded by agriculture.”
“All the lessons that I learned in life came directly from men who applied their hands in some facet of agriculture,” he continued. “I apply general knowledge that I learned on the farm in my day-to-day job.”
Aldridge added that his 2-year-old company is attempting to reach out to youth so they’ll perhaps consider agriculture as a career.
“We need more kids that believe that agriculture is cool and believe there is a career and a livelihood for that,” he said. “Nowadays everybody’s into technology, and that’s fine, but we’ve lost the science of planting seeds.”