Linda Harris is an 18-year marketing and communications professional and serves as the Assistant Director of Community & Economic Development for the City of Decatur. Linda currently serves as the Vice President of the AJC Decatur Book Festival Board of Directors.
In 2006, the July 4th fireworks were rained out and the published rain date was Labor Day weekend. In 2006, we were also launching the first AJC Decatur Book Festival over Labor Day weekend. Why not combine the two and hold a big fireworks celebration at the close of the festival Sunday evening? It seemed like a win-win.
We handled the logistics of closing the top two levels of the DeKalb County parking deck where the fireworks are shot. We handled the logistics of getting the fireworks in and hooking up the fire hose. We handled the logistics of clearing out the fireworks fallout zones.
What we didn’t anticipate was the huge number of attendees to this first-time festival, many of whom lived in the metro area and beyond. The DeKalb County parking deck was full as were the meters in the fallout zones.
While the cars in the deck would be safe during the fireworks, no one would be allowed to exit the deck until the fireworks ended. Therefore, anyone not staying for the fireworks would need to leave by 6 p.m. when the streets in the fallout zone would be closed. We began making announcements at all the venues to alert the audiences. By 3 p.m. attendees began leaving the festival in droves.
The fireworks went off without a hitch—they were beautiful and festive and a fitting end to our first festival. However, we learned that fireworks and festivals with 50,000+ attendees do not mix even though it seemed like a good idea at the time.