Second annual Friendliest City Festival draws crowd

Published 12:18 am Tuesday, November 14, 2023

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

On Nov. 4, Douglass Park in Luverne came alive for the second annual Friendliest City Festival. The fun-filled festivities included live entertainment, food trucks, free children’s activities, oversized lawn games, a diverse array of vendors and more. 

Merica Tisdale of Luverne attended the festival with her daughter Emily Kelly and her grandson Caden.

Email newsletter signup

“The atmosphere was great, a southern fall day with lots of fun free activities for the kids,” Tisdale said. “Rock painting was one of my grandson Caden’s favorites. We even went downtown and added them to Peanut the Python. I loved the sound of SEC football and the amazing bands that were playing. There were so many food vendors and so much to do in one spot made for a wonderful day of family fun.”

Vendors offered a wide variety of handcrafted items including door hangers, soaps and candles, decor, jewelry, Christmas decorations, clothing and more. The Crenshaw County Historical Society was on hand to answer questions for those interested in their roots and the group also had various publications related to local history and genealogy available for purchase.

A pet costume contest was held to raise proceeds for the Crenshaw County Animal Shelter..

A unique aspect of the festival was the emphasis on community engagement. Several local churches and ministries participated, providing activities for festival goers. Luverne United Methodist Church set up an obstacle course, and First Baptist Church offered bowling, games and coloring. South Luverne Baptist Church (SLBC) brought a gaming station, offered face painting, cookie decorating and sold sugar-coated biscuits to support their youth group. The Soldiers of the Cross ministry had a tent with Bibles, and devotionals and offered prayer services.

The music lineup featured the Guilty Pleasure Band from Troy, entertaining attendees from 2-5 p.m. in the Joe Rex Sport gazebo at Douglass Park. Later, The Mitchell Hudson Band took the stage, performing from 5-7 p.m. The Crenshaw County Choir also filled the park with gospel songs.

The festival offered numerous entertainment options, including a selfie photo booth with free photos and a 360-video booth that captured visitors’ experiences. Pony rides were a hit with the kids present and Gather ‘Round Entertainment brought a trailer equipped with big-screen TVs and a grill.

Among the food trucks and vendors present at the festival were Grit & Grind Coffee from Opp, Burgers & More Thangs from Elba, Dixieland Kettle Corn from Brantley, Camellia’s Sweet Treats from Greenville, Preston’s from Luverne, Rivers Courtyard Baking and more. Pepsi of Luverne provided free Pepsi products and water, with the Luverne Fire Department contributing ice for the drinks.

Kathy Smyth, one of the event organizers, expressed her gratitude for the volunteers and the support the event received.

“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” Smyth said. “Thanks to Dongwon, the Crenshaw County Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors & Board Members, Crenshaw County Economic Development Authority, and to the Crenshaw County Career Academy for sending us such wonderful helpers throughout the day. It was a community effort and so many people put effort into making it all come together.”

The Luverne Garden Club and Flowers by Michelle provided wreaths and bows that adorned the park’s archway and Countryside Gardens provided pumpkins, hay, and mums that were used for decor. Natalie Pinson of Backdrops LLC from Opp designed the welcoming balloon arches while DSA Graphics handled the sponsor banner, photo booth design and promotional signs. A Color Affair added a colorful promo banner to the festival’s visual appeal and WSMX 100.3 Super Mix provided a live radio remote.

Smyth also recognized the City of Luverne and its personnel for their invaluable support in making the festival a success.

This year’s FCFest was made possible through grants from the Department of Tourism thanks to the efforts of Senator Will Barfoot and Representative Chris Sells, as well as an AMEA Economic Development Grant. Generous donations from area businesses, industries, and individuals also played a crucial role in bringing the festival to life. 

Attendees came from all corners of Crenshaw County, neighboring towns and counties, and even travelers passing through the area stopped to enjoy and celebrate the town’s hospitality and vibrant sense of community, all the while supporting local businesses and making the festival a true community-wide success.

Plans are already in the works for next year’s Friendliest City Festival and the city is currently gearing up for its next big event: the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on Dec. 5 at Douglass Park and the annual Christmas parade to be held Dec. 7, which promises to bring more joy and community spirit to the friendly city of Luverne.