FORSYTH -- Twenty-five years after it began, the Forsythia Festival continues to grow as a cultural event and economic generator for the city.
Organizers estimated that between 15,000 and 25,000 attended this years festival, held in downtown Forsyth. Some 124 booths were set up along the streets adjacent to the town center, where people could get food ranging from funnel cakes to smoked barbecue or buy handmade wares ranging from jewelry to knives.
Were really happy, said Tiffany Andrews, CEO of the Forsyth Chamber of Commerce, which puts the festival on each year. This has been one of our bigger festivals.
Though the chamber has never done an economic study about the festivals impact, Andrews said hotels, restaurants and gas stations have seen a marked increase in business from both the merchants who set up shop at the event as well as the people attending.
David Barker, who co-owns Jonahs on Johnston pizzeria in downtown Forsyth, said Saturdays crowd was twice the business of a normal Saturday.
We were extremely busy, he said. Were glad (the festival) is here. It brings a lot of business to town, and its good for the local economy. All in all, it works well for Forsyth.
Chris and Mandi Harrell of Forsyth said they attend every year, because its a good activity for the family to bring their daughter, Blakely.
This has probably been the best year, Chris Harrell said. This is the best weather theyve had since we started coming. ... I like the live music and the food. Theres something for everyone. Im just looking forward to it coming back next year.
Though the main part of the festival is the booths and rides over the weekend, the festival has expanded to most of the preceding week, including a business-to-business networking event Tuesday, a fashion show Thursday and a live concert Friday.
Kim Romine, chairwoman of the festival, said there were about 280 participants in the 5k and Fun Run held Saturday morning, while about 300 people attended FaithFest, a singing competition held at First Baptist Church.
Romine said this years Forsythia Festival had plenty of participation from local high school students, including livestock shows from the 4-H and Future Farmers of America organizations and a live demonstration by the Mary Persons High School construction crew.
Ron Woodall brought his wife, Kristi, and their daughter Courtney to attend the festival for the first time. Though the family lives in Macon, they had never taken the opportunity to attend the Forsythia Festival before Sunday.
Weve been to (Macons) Cherry Blossom Festival before, but not this one, Kristi Woodall said. It seems really nice. It looks like theres a lot to look at.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.