by Carson Gerber Kokomo Tribune
---- — It was a tranquil scene Wednesday afternoon in Foster Park as vendors casually set up food booths and few rides beneath a blue, sunny sky to get ready for the Haynes Apperson Festival today.
But it was the calm before the storm. This morning, vendors swarmed the area to set up and prepare for the thousands of people ready to hit the festival this evening for its maiden voyage at Foster Park.
And it’s a storm festival organizers say they’ve been planning on for the last few months as the event moves from downtown to the park for the first time ever.
Festival organizer Paul Wyman said the festival will be by far the largest event ever held in Foster Park. He said he anticipates over 15,000 people to descend on the festival over the next three days for food, rides and live concerts booming out from the pavilion stage.
Wyman said the festival board spent months looking at aerial maps of the park to create the best layout for this year’s event and utilize the new space in the most efficient way.
“We were trying to figure out a layout that creates flow,” he said. “We want to create that flow so people will not only ride the rides, but patronize the vendors out here while still maximizing the seating for the concerts.”
What they came up with was this: Rides in the middle of the park with food and craft vendors surrounding them. Kid rides set up on Superior Street. Cars for the cruise-in shows parked along Superior Street inside the park. A beer tent located near the stage so people can enjoy a drink and watch the concerts.
But the set up Wednesday didn’t come without its changes. Wyman said they anticipated they’d have to tweak a few things once vendors actually started moving in. That’s why they started setting up already by Tuesday evening, he said.
“With this being the first year, we knew we were going to have to move things around,” Wyman said. “Even with our best plans, we had to do some moving. And that’s OK. We understood that would happen going into it.”
And with this being the first year, Wyman said he knows they’ll probably have to make some changes throughout the festival to keep it running smoothly.
“Even downtown we had surprises that would pop up, and I’m confident whatever happens over the next three days – good or bad – we’ll handle it just fine and this will go off without a hitch,” he said. “ … As a board, we said no frustrations the first couple days because we’re dealing with a brand new set up. We all accepted that, stayed patient and it’s worked out great.”
And area residents said they hope it does work out great.
“I’ve always said they should have done this,” said Tom Williams, a local painter who strolled along Wildcat Creek Wednesday afternoon with his wife, Jane. “It’s just too congested downtown. There never was enough room.”
Tom said he likes the festival in the park, but said he thinks the stage area might be too crowded because the rides are set up too close to it.
“It’s a good idea to move it here, I just don’t think it’s a good idea to have the rides set up where they’re at,” he said.
Jane said she also worried about possible flooding sweeping in from the creek and ruining the event. She also thought there would be more mosquitoes.
As vendors gradually moved in Wednesday, 23-year-old Cassie Campbell pushed her baby around Foster Park. She said she also likes the new festival location, but it has its drawbacks.
“The sound is better here for the concerts because it’s not bouncing off all the buildings,” she said. “But I always liked walking around the square and running into people.”
Campbell said it was also hard to push her baby stroller through the grass, but liked that there’s a playground close by to keep kids busy during the festival.
Wyman said he knows some people won’t like the new location. He said some downtown businesses were especially upset about the move, since the festival brought in thousands of potential customers walking by their stores.
“Change is difficult for some people,” he said. “There’s people who didn’t like it on the square and there’s some people who won’t like it in the park. But you know what? We’re putting on a community celebration. When it comes down to it, it’s not about the location. It’s about coming out and celebrating all that’s great about Kokomo.”
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, or at email@example.com.