By Angela Underwood
Express staff writer
It’s never too early to plan a big street party, especially when it comes to road closures that affect traffic and public safety.
That is why Aug. 2, the Winters City Council approved all road closures for the upcoming Winters Downtown Business Association and Holden Events Downtown Winters Harvest Fest scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28–29.
The Main Street closure for the upcoming festival is essential to public safety, according to Winters Police Chief John P. Miller.
“Any road closures of Main, Abbey, Railroad, and a couple of others do go in front of the city council for review and approval per the municipal code,” Miller said.
The chief said the “city’s team,” including the police, fire, public works departments, and administrative services work with event coordinators, including Holden, for the good of all concerned.
“Our primary goal in supporting road closures for these types of events is to ensure the safety of the people attending the event,” Miller noted.
The city team often recommends using water barricades, especially when the events last several hours and potentially involve large street crowds.
“We have all seen horrific tragedies that could have been prevented if greater precautions were taken,” Miller said. “This added layer of safety also enhances the overall enjoyment for those attending the event.”
Successfully throwing the big fall event takes a lot of little end-of-summer planning to work out, according to Delaney Holden, the event organizer.
“We do all the gritty work behind the scenes,” Holden said.
Some of that “gritty” work entails gaining city approval for upcoming festival road closures, including Main and Abbey Street, Railroad and Grant Avenue, and Valley Oak Drive. Holden Events is responsible for setting up all barricades and detour signage but, if needed, can seek the city teams’ assistance.
Holden Events have the approval to place no parking signs at least 24 hours before the festival and must inform businesses and residents of all noted closures in advance. Due to the 5K run hosted by the Winters High School Athletic Program on Sunday, Oct. 29, all closures will remain till approximately 4:30 p.m. back to the mid-block crossing.
According to Delaney, ending the fall festival with the 5k run is an excellent opportunity to involve the community in the big event further.
“It is highly anticipated, and that is why we love it,” she said.
Other behind-the-scenes work entails approving up to 150 market vendor applications, working with downtown restaurants, and scheduling entertainment. Not to mention planning trick-or-treating and pumpkin painting.
“Friday, we are going to build a pumpkin patch in the street,” Delaney said. “There will also be line dancing and fun activities.”
Saturday starts a day-long shopping spree with up to 150 local merchants setting up downtown to show off their goods. A backdrop of live music, food trucks, and kids’ activities gives patrons a chance to stop and enjoy some tunes and lunch while supporting local businesses.
The Fall season is a hit for homemade items, according to Holden, who said metal and wood art and hand-sewn clothes are big sellers during the holidays.
“We stick to everything handmade and homemade,” Holden said. “We want to give smaller businesses that shot to get out there and sell their goods.”
According to Holden, supporting local businesses on the fourth Friday of October initiated the festival. Before Holden events entered the downtown Winters picture, the city celebrated local business by allowing local vendors to sell goods. Now Holden Events hosts a spring festival the last weekend in March.
“It is something the community expects when it comes to merchants,” she said. “Without markets like these, there is no outlet for them to sell and develop relationships.”
Holden said that the spring and fall festivals are all about discovering Winters.
“It’s all about getting them to come and stay,” she said. “It not only supports the businesses, but it also supports tourism.”
Mayor Wade Cowan agrees.
“It was very well attended last year, and the feedback we received from our local businesses was very positive,” Cowan said, adding it offers out-of-town residents a chance to shop, eat, and enjoy downtown.
According to the mayor, local distinct vendor markets and gifts are an excellent draw that set the festival apart.
“It also gives the locals a chance to shop for things not normally found in town without having to travel and allowing a portion of the dollars spent to stay in Winters,” Cowan said. “The best thing (that) all of us that live in and around Winters can do is to shop local.”