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Pumpkinfest builds thirty-year history of community

Originally Pumpkinfest began as a small way to promote downtown as a historic district where families could shop, attend events, while enjoying the historic flavor of Franklin.

“A few hundred people attended the first year compared to thousands today,” said Rudy Jordan, founder of the Downtown Franklin Association who now serves on the board.

Jordan and her husband Peter, now deceased, were the masterminds behind the festival thirty years ago. 

“It just seemed like such a natural way to promote Main Street,” Jordan said. “The kids always loved to dress up, and families seemed to enjoy the atmosphere. It’s a wholesome family event that just seemed to catch more and more attention.”

Jordan, an Alabama-native who became instrumental in the revitalization of downtown Franklin in the late 1980s, developed an affinity for historic houses and buildings while she and her husband lived in New England. 

“I fell in love with old houses in Connecticut and wanted to buy one in Franklin when we moved here,” Jordan said. 

The couple bought the old Cliffe House where First Tennessee Bank is now located and moved it to Second and Main Street. Jordan still resides in the home that could date back to the 1798.

Jordan served as the founder of the Downtown Franklin Association and served as director of the Heritage Foundation, which she used to run from a room in her home before the organizations grew large enough to be housed in their own building.  

“We hoped that the fest would grow and become an event that families looked forward to in their community each fall,” she said.  

Over the past three decades, activities at the fest have grown from a costume contest to multiple family-friendly activities such as a chili cook- off, live music, scarecrow contest, and about 75 arts and crafts booths.  

Also, children’s activities will include pumpkin painting, free games with small prizes, inflatables, pony rides and a petting zoo.

Janice Schwartz, owner of The Cellar women’s boutique has observed the festival’s growth every year and has seen it become a catalyst of family holiday activity and shopping on Main Street.

“When Pumpkinfest gets here, we [downtown Franklin shops] don’t look up until Christmas,” she said. “It’s a sign that the holidays are here. My favorite part of Pumpkinfest is when the air is crisp and everyone can enjoy beautiful fall weather on Main Street.” 

Nancy Williams, current executive director of Downtown Franklin Association has been an integral part of the festival’s growth and organization over the past fifteen years. 

“It’s a festival that comes during a beautiful time of year,” Williams said. 

“It’s like the perfect activity on Main Street at the perfect time of year where kids look cute in their costumes and parents are happy that kids are happy. It gets people in the mood for the holidays.”

Posted on: 10/24/2013


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