CULLMAN — Cullman native Caitlin Bates missed the first Celebrate Cullman after briefly moving out of town last year. But, now that she’s relocated back to Cullman, she made sure not to miss the second edition.
“We were living out of town, but we heard about it, and it sounded like a lot of fun,” she said. “I think it’s great for the community, and definitely a family friendly atmosphere. It’s a chance to see downtown with everything open, and very casual. It’s a small-town feel, but with a bigger event.”
Thousands packed downtown Cullman for the second annual street festival Friday night — an event first born from the rebuilding of the tornado outbreak that hit the area in April 2011. Several streets were closed to allow room for music stages, kid’s events and street vendors, and crowds eventually filled most every area as the night wore on.
A decent-sized crowd turned out for live music and a wine tasting at the Rotunda building, hosted by Smith Farms, among them friends Rosemary Harbison and Donna Laney.
“It’s interesting, and definitely different for Cullman,” Harbison said.
Berkeley Bob’s Coffee House owner Bob Keefe said the event is most important as a showcase for local business, as opposed to just another way to draw traffic into downtown — though it is that, too.
“We definitely need to do this more than just once a year,” he said. “It brings together the merchants in downtown Cullman. You just can’t beat it.”
Addison residents Georgie and Cody Hood spent the evening browsing downtown shops, hoping to support one of the few large-scale late night events in the city.
“It gives people something to do, which is great,” Georgie said. “They really need to do more things like it.”
Most businesses seemed pleased with the late night draw, and Shops at Third Street Promenade co-owner Stacie Carter said Celebrate helps show residents and visitors that there is more than meets the eye in downtown.
“It gives people a good feel for Cullman now,” she said. “There’s a little more going on, and there are things for kids, families and everyone.”
Nikki Carter, owner of boutique Etc. By Nikki, said she tried to take advantage of the buzz created by the festival and promote her sales along with it — using social media to spread the word.
“I sent e-mails, and used Facebook to help spread the word, and it seems to have worked out well for us,” she said. “Downtown is a wonderful place.”
While passing through the children’s area, filled with everything from a petting zoo to carnival rides, Cullman Mayor Max Townson said he was proud to see the city so lively.
“You just love to see all the children having a great time,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Former Cullman Downtown Merchant’s Association (CDMA) President Ron Pierce, who helped put together the inaugural event last year in the months following the tornadoes, said he was amazed to see how much the festival has grown in year two.
“There’s music everywhere, and there’s even a band playing at the Busy Bee,” he said, referring to the downtown cafe that was destroyed during the tornado, and has since rebuilt. “It really feels good.”
Current CDMA President Nathan Anderson, who took over planning duties for this year’s event, said he believes it is one of the best ways to promote the unique shops tucked away in downtown.
“We want to show off our local merchants and get people into stores,” he said. “It’s just great.”
‰ Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.