Clayton has arranged a bumper crop of rides, music and vendors for this year’s Harvest and Music Festival.
The five-day event, which opens Wednesday, annually attracts a crowd of 20,000, with Saturday’s all-day street fair being the main draw.
Clayton has long had a September festival, said town historian Pam Baumgartner, who pointed to the Barn Festival in the 1930s, the Cotton Festival in the 1950s and the Soybean Festival in the 1970s. Those earlier festivals were one-day affairs that might have featured a parade, gospel music, cloggers, bands and a flea market.
While the years have grown festival attendance by thousands and stretched it to five days, Clayton remains the centerpiece.
“Last year’s was the best festival I can remember in the past 25 years,” said James Lipscomb, who oversees the event for the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, the festival’s organizer. “We had great weather and great attendance.”
Lipscomb said the festival underscores what a great place Clayton is. “I’ve been doing this for so long that I try to come up with one reason why I do it each year,” he said. “This past year, I saw a mom and a dad and two little kids walking down the street as the festival was winding down. One of the kids said, ‘I love this place. Why don’t we come here more often?’ That’s all I needed right there.”
This year’s festival opens with the annual Clayton Idol competition at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on Town Square, 110 W. Main St. That’s followed by less ambitious competitors in the Clayton Karaoke Contest at 8:30 p.m. at The Flipside Restaurant & Pub, 408 E. Second St. Carnival rides also open Wednesday and continue through Sunday.
On Thursday, The Clayton Downtown Development Association will host the band Walrus at 6 p.m. on Town Square.
“We really involve other organizations in the festival and let them do their own segment,” said Polly Mudd, director of special projects for the chamber of commerce. “It offers more choices for the community.”
This year, those choices include a Zaxby’s Movie Night on Friday. The evening begins at 6 p.m. with games for children. A screening of “The Lego Movie” will follow at 7:30.
New this year is a hospitality tent on Friday and Saturday that will feature local entertainment and local breweries.
“We really wanted it to be an event where there was something for everybody,” Mudd said.
Saturday’s streets fair has more than 200 vendors signed up to sell everything from crafts to jewelry to insurance. Vendors will be on hand from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. along Main Street. Memory Lane Car Club will host its classic car show during the fair.
In addition to being Clayton’s biggest annual event, the festival is the chamber’s biggest fundraiser, Lipsomb said, helping to support the organization throughout the year.
“The recipient of the funds is any event the chamber puts on the rest of the year,” Lipscomb said.
Away from the vendor fair, the Wagner House will host the Creative Hands Kids Corner from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a princess and heroes meet-and-greet from 1 to 3 p.m.
The big day will end with a concert by the Embers at 7 p.m. on the Town Square.
Some of the most popular food these days is sold from the mobile kitchens of food trucks, and the Harvest Festival will have a food truck rodeo from 6 to 10:30 p.m.
For more information on the Harvest Festival, visit www.claytonchamber.com.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson