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CityFest brings thousands to Kiesel Park despite late date change

CityFest brings thousands to Kiesel Park despite late date change

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A weather delay did not deter thousands of local families and residents from attending the 20th annual Auburn CityFest held at Kiesel Park on Sunday.

“It’s a beautiful day, the crowds have been amazing,” said Ann Bergman, co-organizer and public relations specialist for the City’s Parks and Recreation department. “I think everybody has been dying to get out and I think when you have something like CityFest, everybody gets hopeful that things will eventually get back to normal.”

Located at 520 Chadwick Lane, Kiesel Park is Auburn’s largest park, with a pavilion, a garden, a pond and a network of walking trails. On Sunday, the park housed several vendors, musical entertainment and more for the Auburn community.

Danielle Lemore, Alondra Clarke and Hailey Dison attended the festival together and said this year’s festival “felt bigger” than prior years.

“I think there are so many more people out here today because of the pandemic,” Lemore said. “We’ve all been cooped up. And it’s a beautiful day to be out here.”

The City made the decision to move the festival from Saturday to Sunday on Thursday night following severe weather warnings, a move Bergman called “very wise.”

“We were fortunate that public safety, environmental services, everybody was able to work it on Sunday,” Bergman said. “It just feels like a typical CityFest. I can’t believe the crowd.”

Fifteen thousand festival-goers attended the 2019 Auburn CityFest, and Bergman said halfway through the festival that she “would not be surprised if we have 10,000 people out here.”

Alexis Chronaris of Satorini brought a slice of Greece to CityFest with his food stand, a tradition. He said the festival, which he books alongside other U.S. festivals while here, reminds him of home.

“I love the people, they remind me of my village in Greece,” Chronaris says, watching the growing line of customers. “[CityFest] is full of friendly people, a friendly atmosphere, and today is a warm spring day.”

The Nunn-Winston House, just off the pavilion, hosted the Juried Art Exhibition, with Bay Kelley’s “Toomers Corner Sit-in” and Scott Melville’s “Apples and a Pot of Flowers” wining the two $250 dollar Auburn & Opelika Tourism Bureau Merit Awards.

Sarah Hornsby of Hornsby Farms said the local family farm enjoys supporting the community – and offering sweet jams, pepper jellies and pickles for patrons, too.

“We’re just very lucky that we were able to pull off today,” Bergman said. “We did have to rearrange some vendors due to the rain at the last minute, so the social distancing wasn’t quite what we wanted, but we wanted to have it no matter what.”

More than 80% of the arts and crafts vendors and around 70% of the food vendors set up shop on Sunday, according to Bergman. She said the other 30% of food vendors had other festivals already booked Sunday.

First-year vendor Nellie’s Southern Fried Pies sold out within three hours of its booth opening. Owner Angela Vollmer says she’s excited to be at CityFest and vendor friends encouraged her for years to come to CityFest, but other events always conflicted.

Mary Williams, a potter with the Dean Road Ceramics Studio inside the Dean Road Recreation Center sells her own pottery at CityFest and says its “fun” to see the children react to the amenities of the day.

“As a vendor, my first thought is the kids,” Williams said. “Everything in the front, if someone knocks it off and breaks it, it’s not make or break.”

Calling it a “great community event,” Pascha Adamo, author of the “CeCe and Roxy” books, says it’s important for her to be at CityFest as a child’s book author featuring an interracial couple “because it’s still underrepresented in the children’s market, and it’s really important for people even not in underrepresented or marginalized communities to have diverse libraries for their children.”

Bergman said that above all else, the Parks and Recreation team and the City are happy to have hosted the event.

“It gives the entire parks and recreation team and other city departments a great joy putting on CityFest,” Bergman said. “It affects all ages, to see them enjoy the music, the free giveaways, really warms all of our hearts. We are public servants, we serve the public. And this is a really fun way to serve the public.”

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