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City ready for fall festival
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Springfield’s downtown area is expected to be a busy hub of activity Friday and Saturday.

The Springfield Merchants Association is staging its first Springfield Fall Festival, which begins Friday at 5 p.m.

“We’re up to 40 vendors as of Tuesday, and that’s just arts and crafts,” said Jamey Stancell, president of the SMA. “We want people to come to Springfield and see something they like.”

There are 15 food vendors signed up, with a variety of choices from barbecue to shrimp to hamburgers and hot dogs available.

“We tried to give local people the first shot at it,” Stancell said.

The festival includes 12 hours of live music over the two days, with Keith Gay beginning the performances tonight at 7 p.m. Gay has been in Nashville recording an album.

“He’s really started to make a name for himself,” Stancell said.

DaySpring Reliance will take the stage Saturday at 11 a.m., with Gary Byrd, who plays extensively locally, going on at 2:30 p.m. Thomas Claxton and the Myth will close out the performances at 7 p.m.

“We were capable of having four quality local talents for a fraction of the price of entertainment at other festivals,” Stancell said.

All live music performances will be held in front of Springfield City Hall.

The festival will be held along Laurel Street between Second and Madison streets. Through traffic will be stopped at those intersections. The festival starts at 5 p.m. Friday and begins Saturday at 10 a.m., running to 10 p.m. each night. Beer sales will begin at 5 p.m. each day and stop at 10 p.m. each night.

Parking will be accommodated at the lot next to city hall or in the lot across from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Parking also will be permitted on the side streets. The food vendors will be set up in the lot between city hall and the Mars Theatre.

But Stancell pointed out the event is more than just beer sales. There is also a kids play area, sponsored by the Effingham Hospital, with face painting, games, coloring and bounce houses.

“There’s going to be lots of stuff for kids,” he said.

Stancell also said the festival committee extended its thanks to the hospital, Coca-Cola of Savannah and Eagle Distributing. “If not for those three, we would not have this festival,” he said. “They have stepped up to the plate, and I thank them.”

While food and arts and crafts vendors, along with beer sellers, will be charging, everything else is free, Stancell noted.

“Everything is free. Admission is free. The kids play area is free,” he said. “The concerts are free. Our first and foremost goal is to have a family-friendly festival on Laurel Street that didn’t cost anything to come to.”

It’s also a chance to showcase Springfield’s downtown and its businesses — and to show that Springfield remains a vibrant community, according to Stancell.

“I want a festival that shows you Springfield,” he said. “What sets this festival apart from others is this is done by the city and businesses. Maybe this will shine a light and get us past the idea that Springfield is dead.

“I think it’s important to put something on in downtown Springfield and show the relationship between the city and the businesses and how they can work together. I think it’s important for Springfield to have something like that. We have a beautiful new courthouse and a beautiful old courthouse. But that’s not all Springfield is.”

Stancell has been overwhelmed by the interest in those wishing to help with the festival and extended thanks to Gussie Nease and Randy Shearouse for their assistance.

“The community support has been excellent,” he said “It takes a lot of people to put this on. The volunteers have worked hard behind the scenes. My hat’s off to them.”

Plans for next year’s event may include a car show and a haunted house, Stancell added.