The Gainesville Spring Chicken Festival will no longer grace downtown with the aroma of cooked chicken, but instead take up residence in Longwood Park.
Regina Dyer, the manager of the Gainesville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her office decided to move the location because of the development in downtown, including the Parkside on the Square condos.
“With the future development on the lot, we knew we’d have to find somewhere suitable to have that event,” Dyer said. “We needed to have space to grow the event. We looked at various options, but we felt like that was a good one.”
Examining different sites with Gainesville Parks and Recreation, Dyer said that Longwood Park was chosen for its close proximity and connectivity to downtown.
For those concerned with parking spaces around Longwood Park, Dyer said people shouldn’t worry.
The City of Gainesville will provide shuttle services from downtown, which is only 1.5 miles away. Dyer said the park handled a crowd of 5,000 from last year’s butterfly release event, and feels confident in its ability to provide sufficient parking.
With the change in location, many downtown businesses have expressed displeasure in the loss of customers during the festival.
“It’s pretty disappointing for us as business owners, and I think a lot of the other businesses feel the same way,” Aimee Hoecker, co-owner of Downtown Drafts said. “We really count a lot on festivals that the city holds as part of our revenue each year.”
Caitlyn Robertson, the manager of Fashion Ten in Gainesville, said she enjoyed the business the festival would bring to the clothing store. She said the shop would even keep its doors open past closing time to accommodate the influx of customers.
Dyer said the event will offer plenty of information to help lead people from the festival to downtown Gainesville.
Dyer said the new location will have alcohol and provide opportunities for accommodating more cook-off teams, art vendors and kids activities.
“We are the poultry capital of the world,” Dyer said. “As I always say, you’ve got to embrace who you are and that’s a huge part of Gainesville. The festival is just one way to celebrate our poultry industry folks. It’s a great community and family fun event. We’re just excited about it continuing and looking forward to the great things that are going to come this year to the new location.”
Keith Smith, division fire chief of the Gainesville Fire Department, said he is looking forward to participating in the festival’s cook-off for another year.
With five years and many Spring Chicken awards under their belt, the staff at the Gainesville Fire Department is ready to give the competition another go.
“We can hardly wait. We’ll be there,” he said.
The free festival will last from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 27. A $6 Cluck Card pays for 10 samples from the cook-off teams, who will be serving until 3 p.m.
Sponsorships for the festival, held annually by the city of Gainesville, fund scholarships for students entering the poultry industry and for children of city employees. Applications will be accepted through the North Georgia Community Foundation website through March 15.
For updates on the event visit the Gainesville Spring Chicken Festival Facebook page.