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Preparations under way for Ole Brook Fest

The 2008 installment of the Ole Brook Festival is shaping up tobe the largest in the event’s 34-year history, saidBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce officials.

Executive Vice President Cliff Brumfield said the musical actsfor the annual arts and crafts festival – Big Daddy Weave and Rushof Fools – have already been booked, and approximately 30 of theexpected 150 vendors are committed. These, he said, are goodomens.

“We’ve already signed up approximately three dozen vendors,which – this early in the year – is an excellent sign that we’ll besold out of vendor space by the time of the festival,” Brumfieldsaid.

Brumfield said he expects 6,000 to 8,000 people to flock todowntown Brookhaven to attend the festival throughout the course ofthe day on Saturday, Sept. 20 – and for the talent contest theprevious night. He called the event Southwest Mississippi’spremiere family festival.

“Ole Brook is a family-oriented event with something foreverybody,” he said. “What makes it unique is that it’s an eventwhere you can bring children of all ages and feel safe they won’tbe exposed to any negative activity.”

Brumfield said the festival’s Christian nature is what has madeit an annual success. Chamber officials go to great lengths toscreen performers and vendors to keep the festival family friendly,he said.

“We have upscale vendors, and the chamber and event organizersset fairly progressive guidelines concerning what types of vendorswe want,” Brumfield said. “We work to locate those vendors thatwill fit in well with our family, Christian theme.”

Ole Brook’s activities receive the same scrutiny. Bothperformers for Ole Brook’s concert, which occurs at 6:30 p.m. onfestival day, are Christian acts, and the festival caters tochildren.

Brumfield said the festival will feature an expanded children’sarea this year, with youth-oriented displays and attractions, aswell as the return of the Veggie Tales characters, set so far by averbal agreement.

Even the concert, which began later than 6:30 p.m. in previousyears, has been moved up to allow children more time to enjoy thefestival before the hours grow late.

Brumfield said it takes approximately $25,000 to produce thefestival every year – $8,000 from booth sales and the other $17,000through sponsorships, which are already coming into the chamber inamounts of thousands. But part of the idea behind Ole Brook isthat, eventually, it will pay for itself.

“The festival is intended to not only provide qualityentertainment for locals, but to showcase Brookhaven for those whocome in from out of town,” Brumfield said. “Although the festivalis downtown, visitors will drive through our other retailthoroughfares – like Brookway Boulevard and Highway 51 – as theycome in and out.”

Brumfield said the festival may also help lure people back toBrookhaven, as it will showcase “a little taste of the lifestyle”enjoyed by city and county residents.

Brumfield said the festival has been able to survive for 34years because of constant adjusting and fine tuning of the events.Chamber officials and festival volunteers begin reviewing anddiscussing the festival almost immediately after it ends, hesaid.

“Festivals typically have a lifespan – they have to bereaddressed to keep the public coming,” Brumfield said. “We’veworked on Ole Brook to keep people coming while still maintainingthe atmosphere of an old, downtown community festival.”

Entergy Customer Accounts Manager Kenny Goza, one of the event’sorganizers, said planning for Ole Brook begins 10 months ahead.

“To improve the festival and bring in quality events, we have toplan at least 10 months ahead,” he said. “It really is a year-roundthing. You don’t wait until Sept. 1 to start working on it – itdoesn’t work that way.”