LIBERTY — When the City of Liberty found itself facing serious financial problems earlier this year, officials took a long hard look at the budget and started making cuts.
One of the first events to end up on the chopping block was the annual Fall Festival, but that’s when one local business owner stepped in and said “Not so fast …”
“A couple of years ago, the city formed a Community Enrichment Committee to plan the festivals and events,” said Julie Cohn, owner of The Ugly Cookie Dessert Shoppe. “But earlier this year, the city employee that was in charge of this committee resigned.”
But even before she heard about the resignation, Cohn said Liberty events and festivals had already begun to decline.
“When I started my business, I started out of my house and sold at festivals,” she explained. “Since I lived in Liberty, I tried to participate in the festivals and events that took place here in town. At that time, there were quite a few events taking place on Commerce Street throughout the year.”
Cohn said that it was actually at one of these events where she and her husband decided to quit selling out of their home and open The Ugly Cookie’s storefront.
“Shortly after we opened our shop, the city decided to take over the festivals and events from the group that had been handling them for all the years that we had been involved,” she said. “We went from having about 12 different activities downtown to about two. They moved some of them to the football stadium, near Liberty Elementary and eliminated most of the others.”
Cohn said the move was discouraging to the Commerce Street shop owners as just one of these events can mean a great deal of revenue to a small business.
“We kind of felt forgotten by our city,” she said.
All of this culminated when Cohn asked Mayor Eric Boughman if they were still going to have the Fall Festival this year.
“He said they would only be having the Fourth of July event, the Trick or Treat event and I believe he also included the Christmas Parade,” she said. “I am one of the admins on the What’s Happening in Liberty, SC Facebook Page and I posted in the group that there would not be a Fall Festival put on by the City this year. We were disappointed, and quite a few people suggested that we just do it ourselves, but no one knew exactly how to do it.”
That’s when Cohn volunteered to take on the task as organizer.
“I really feel that the people of Liberty, myself included, need something to give them hope,” she said. “I knew this was something I could do, as long as I had enough volunteers to help. I believe that we are given certain talents in life and it is our duty to use them. So, as busy as my life already was, I stepped up.”
And step up she has: Liberty’s Autumn Nights Fall Festival is a “go.”
“I have literally been working around-the-clock to make this a special night for Liberty,” she said. “I have a great team of volunteers helping me and I definitely could not do this without them. I am blown away by the sense of community spirit that has come together to make this event happen. I have never witnessed anything like it in the eight years I have lived here. I am honored to be a part of this.”
The festival will take place Nov. 4 starting at 3 p.m. Where? On Commerce Street, of course!
Erica Woods, who is also helping to put the festival together, couldn’t be more excited about it.
“It’s one of those old fashioned kind of festivals,” she said. “We’re having a baking contest, a hay bale decorating contest, music, a talent show, vendors, good food — you name it.”
Woods said they had considered a car show, but decided to go with “Touch-A-Truck” instead.
“Touch-A-Truck is where you have dump trucks, firetrucks, monster trucks — whatever — and kids can really get an up close look at them. It’s pretty cool.”
The organizers also booked the group “Rhythm City Band” for the event so festival goers can dance the night away.
Although Cohn and Woods appear to have the festival well in hand, a little help never hurts.
Anyone who is interested in volunteering, reserving a vendor location, or entering one of the contests or the Talent Show is asked to contact the organizers online on the Liberty’s Autumn Nights Fall Festival Facebook Page or in person at The Ugly Cookie Dessert Shoppe.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.