Updated: 3:07 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 | Posted: 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013

2 Mason festivals move out of downtown

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2 Mason festivals move out of downtown photo
Mason Heritage & Bicycle Festival and Christmas in Mason, both typically held in downtown Mason, are moving to the Mason Municipal Campus. Attendance at Heritage Festival starts out well for the parade down Main Street with as many as 12,000 people, then attendance “starts to fall off rapidly,” said Scott Pierce, a Festivals of Mason board member.
2 Mason festivals move out of downtown photo
Mason Heritage & Bicycle Festival and Christmas in Mason, both typically held in downtown Mason, are moving to the Mason Municipal Campus.

By Eric Schwartzberg

Staff Writer

MASON —

Two popular Mason events are moving out of downtown, in hopes of improving attendance, making costs more manageable and involving the parks and utilizing city resources, officials said.

Mason Heritage & Bicycle Festival and Christmas in Mason, both typically held in downtown Mason, are moving to the Mason Municipal Campus, which includes the community center and the Corwin M. Nixon Pine Hill Lakes Park, according to Scott Pierce, a Festivals of Mason board member.

Attendance at Heritage Festival starts out well for the parade down Main Street with as many as 12,000 people, then attendance “starts to fall off rapidly,” Pierce said.

Festivals of Mason discussed the move with downtown business owners prior to the decision, he said.

“We felt like (the Mason Municipal Campus) would bring some holding power and would give us some grassy areas to work with and a park to enjoy,” he said. “It gives us the community center and (the municipal center).”

The Heritage Festival also is being shifted from its traditional slot in August, during the height of summer heat, to the cooler climes of Sept. 14, Pierce said. The annual event includes a parade, Little Miss Heritage Pageant, Mason Idol and other family-friendly fare.

Vice Mayor Victor Kidd said he understands and respects the decision to move the festivals, but is sad that Heritage Festival would leave an area where it exposes downtown businesses to thousands of people.

“There’s a certain amount of energy and excitement that the downtown community and businesses enjoy,” he said. “The loss, I think, is huge.”

Tony Aponte, owner of Aponte’s Pizza, said the festival has neither hurt nor helped his downtown businesses in recent years because of a noticeable drop in attendance.

“Eight years ago you couldn’t walk down there,” Aponte said. “It was jam-packed with people and basically full until later in the afternoon, like 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock. Now, by 2 or 3 o’clock, you’re lucky if you’ve got a hundred people out there … and that’s not making nobody any money.”

“If they’re moving it to bring life to it, then maybe it is the best thing to do it,” he said.

Council member Don Prince said the move is an opportunity for growth and improvement, and “was not a snap decision.”

“This is something there was a lot of talk about over many months and there were a lot of problems, in fact, dealing with businesses who don’t want us downtown, who tell us ‘you hurt my business by being here with the festival,’ ” Prince said. “Some businesses benefit from us being there for the festival, some don’t like it one bit.”

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