By Greg Ritchie
CROCKETT – Crockett Area Chamber of Commerce (CACC) held a board meeting Wed. Aug. 30 to welcome new members to the board and offer the public an opportunity to voice their opinions over the chamber’s decision to consolidate food vendors at this year’s “Christmas in Crockett” celebration into a dedicated area for food sales.
The idea is to create a dedicated food court area, a block from the downtown Crockett square in front of city hall where the chamber could concentrate the food vendors, creating more amenities for foodies, away from the hustle and bustle of the many other vendors spread out through the downtown streets.
The issue had threatened to become a contentious one, with some members of the public and a small number of vendors voicing opposition to the plan, worrying the new layout may leave festival-goers confused or not willing to visit the new “food court” area in downtown Crockett.
While most of the food sellers who are regulars at the “Christmas in Crockett” embraced the idea, CACC’s Executive Director Liza Clark and Board President Karl Balmer worked to create a compromise to make sure the new concept would be acceptable to all, as CACC felt the change was sorely needed to help the festival grow.
“We’re really excited about creating a food area in front of the little park next to City Hall and dedicate that to our food vendors,” Clark recently told The Messenger. “We can move the crowded area off the square and get that down to a dedicated area just for people who come to the fair to eat. There will be a food pavilion with tables and chairs and we can have more space to sit and enjoy the food, with tables and restrooms all together. So we’re really looking forward to that.”
Balmer and the CACC board opened their meeting to the public to air some of those concerns but it appeared most vendors had come to terms with the new layout for the festival.
“We had a very productive meeting and had expected some guests to come and address the new food court, but no guests arrived. We’ve had quite a number of food vendors sign up – 16 and there are no more positions open,” Balmer explained. “We believe we should keep it to a relatively small number of food vendors with a good diversity of food.”
Balmer said other vendor sign-ups are going well, too, as CACC hopes each year to break their own records in terms of number of vendors and visitor turnout.
“We’re well on our way to filling the event up to the standards we had last year. We anticipate maybe a five to 10% increase over last year’s total number of vendors,” Balmer said.
In spite of the lack of public feedback about the new food court, Balmer said the chamber had already anticipated some of the possible concerns the changes might cause.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure people will not have to walk through the mud in the food court,” Balmer said. “We are going to have buskers down at the pagoda for entertainment with covered awnings, tables and chairs where people can sit down and enjoy the meal they just bought without having to go sit on a curb somewhere.”
The food court will also have restrooms and perhaps a wash station – we all know the messier the festival food, the better. To help those with small children or mobility issues, there will be a small number of golf carts to ferry people to and from the food court area.
“Christmas in Crockett” will bring the jingle bells home Saturday, Nov. 18, the weekend before Thanksgiving.
The chamber also welcomed two new members to their board: Rebeca Huffman from the City of Crockett and Rhonda Stanley, President of Crockett Bank, a division of First Bank of Huntsville.
Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]