Friday, June 8, 2012

Monett's second annual Strawberry Festival was a success on many levels. Congratulations are in order for co-chairpersons Shaun Bennett and Donna Hammond. Festivals take a great deal of work and seldom bring commendations in equal proportions.

Every festival is at the mercy of the weather. The Not So Square Arts Festival in Mt. Vernon has such terrible weather last September that it will be a wonder if the organizers have the spirit to do it again.

The weather turned around completely for the two days of Monett's event. Vendors with ice cream had a fighting chance on Saturday after facing a chilled crowd on Friday evening. The hot food vendors did well both days.

Bennett said the staging innovation made possible by Weiser Tent covering the performance area made an enormous difference. Shielding audiences from both rain and intense sun brought a level of comfort.

Downtown merchants had a mixed response from having the crowd around. Many say Monett's Christmas parade, which draws the largest crowds of the year downtown, isn't all that good for business. One merchant said her business was about the same as a typical Saturday, though the Friday crowd was glad to have a warm refuge to visit.

The festival nonetheless made inroads into establishing downtown as the place to go for fun in Monett. It's a difficult message to convey after years of having nothing to do but shop on Broadway. But now, with regular live entertainment, coffee shops open late on weekends and special events, downtown has a lot to offer.

Debbie Berger, owner of Mocha Jo's, has 3,000 followers on her Facebook page. She said the other day, she posted a declaration, urging people to drag themselves away from their TVs and come downtown for a change. Several did. Debbie was encouraged. A night out made a good alternative to seclusion at home.

It's the kind of message Monett needs. The Strawberry Festival was another great example of what can happen by getting outside the humdrum routine. Monett's festival is growing. Vendors still haven't fully grasped what an opportunity awaits them.

We look forward to next year's Strawberry Festival. The more who come, the more who offer services, the better the party will be.