Heather Mann, W.C. Mann
Ferris wheel – Fans of aerial fun take to the Ferris wheel (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)
Up-close dog –
Ladies smiling in front of Oklahoma sign –
CULLMAN, Ala. – Each summer, the Warehouse District and the rest of downtown Cullman see a surge of visitors thanks to the annual 2nd Fridays street festival. Working with the Cullman Downtown Merchants Association (CDMA) Friday evening, the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center stretched the festival from Depot Park all the way down to the Busy Bee Cafe, and the streets were still packed.
One aspect of the steadily-growing festival is that each month typically has a special event, and this month’s special feature allowed pet owners to show off their furry companions in a parade of their own! Sponsored by the CDMA (which was in charge of running the area south of U.S. Highway 278/First Avenue) Pets on Parade gave a chance for visitors to bring their dogs out for a night of casual fun; this is not to be confused with the Furry 5K and 1-Mile Dog Walk, which is hosted by the Chamber (who ran the north side of the festival) and will take place next month.
Visitors on the north side of First Avenue could visit the Festhalle for peaches from Chasteen Farms, treats and preserves from Maw Maw Gypsy’s Jams & Jellies, refreshing fruit water samples from Live Well Alabama (which also gave out fans and sets of measuring cups to people who sampled the water and filled out a small survey) and baked goods from the Chamber’s Cake Walk. They could also walk over to Depot Park for yoga – with goats or without – or painting, or just walk down the street for an abundance of show cars. Further down, they could visit Artists’ Alley to check out locally-made unique crafts, listen to music from three different outdoor performers and get food from stands set up by local restaurants.
Among the booths and tents set up past Artists’ Alley was the Cullman Community Theater tent, run by theater board members Cindy Pass and Linda Foley, who were happy to share the details about their upcoming production and what they’ve planned after it.
“’Oklahoma!’ is a community theater production with 42 cast members from the local community, and they are doing such a great job,” said Pass. “Next week is showtime; we’re getting costumes tonight, and they’ve been rehearsing at the civic center. Tomorrow we’re moving to our venue at Cullman High School – we use the high school because it’s the best theater that we can get into. The city’s Parks & Rec is sponsoring us and that works well with the school system, so we have a great collaboration and they’ve been so supportive in getting us up and running.”
Showtimes for ‘Oklahoma!’ are Friday, July 19 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 20 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased either at the door ($12 general admission, $7 student admission), in advance from a cast member or at the Cullman Civic Center ($10 general, $5 student).
Pass mentioned that the community theater is planning to put on a children’s play in late fall, and the group is hoping to establish a yearly three-show pattern: adult drama, then summer musical, then children’s play. She also explained that for children ages 6-12, the civic center is hosting a Music Camp from July 29-Aug. 2. Participants will be taught basics of singing and instrumentals and will put on a big performance at the end of the camp. Registration is $100 and can be found on the Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism website (https://cullmanrecreation.recdesk.com/Community/Program?category=17).
At the Chamber of Commerce’s event booth, Director of Member Services Magan Bartlett offered The Tribune a statement about the festival:
“The Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, partnered with Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism, brought 2nd Fridays to downtown Cullman, and we do that every second Friday June through September, so we’ve got two more for the rest of this year. This year, the CDMA sponsored the area south of (Hwy.) 278, and in doing so extended our footprint.
“We started this event a few years ago, and it was to really help our merchants – to bring people out, give them something to do on a Friday night, and support our businesses because they’re going to return and support the football programs, our nonprofits other organizations. So by supporting them (the businesses), they’re supporting you.
“We couldn’t do this without Cullman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. They’ve been our longtime presenting sponsor, and they always bring out some really pretty vehicles to look at. Then we have the Classic Cruise-In, that brings hundreds of people out from all over the state, and there’s some really nice cars to look at. We have three stages of music: the DQ Grill & Chill stage with the band Avenue G, the Shirley Quattlebaum State Farm stage with Jake Robertson & the Bama Country Band, and the Lister Hill Credit Union stage with Kent Duchaine.
“James R. Smith Trucking sponsors Artists’ Alley, which brings a different vibe to that area; you can shop some of our local pop-up shops but also find some of those unique pieces made by artists. R.E. Garrison is a few steps down from the show lot, where we’ve got a rock climbing wall, the Buffalo Wild Wings kid zone, one of the music stages, you know there’s something free for everyone. At Depot Park, we’ve got a Ladies’ Night happening tonight, so we’ve got goat yoga, traditional yoga, and Sips N Strokes sponsored by EvaBank.
“Next month we’re gonna have the Furry 5K and 1-Mile Family Dog Walk, which is part of our Woof Local event (which is part of our Think Local campaign) so stay tuned to our social media and news outlets for more information on that and how to sign up. The next month we’re gonna have a cornhole tournament, so that’ll be really fun. Our winners last year were out-of-state winners, so that’s pretty amazing. We’ve just got a lot of good things happening, the crowds are really coming out tonight, and we’re already planning for next month to be big.”
When asked how 2nd Fridays has affected the Warehouse District, Bartlett shared, “We get requests all the time of ‘Can you please extend 2nd Fridays?’ City Parks & Recreation does a great job with the Strawberry Festival that happens in May, and then we have Oktoberfest that happens after everything, and after that it’s time to shop for Christmas. So 2nd Fridays does a good job of filling in that time between the Strawberry Festival and Oktoberfest. The stores love it – there’s always good turnout, and any time you can shop late is always good. It’s just grown each year.”
Meanwhile on the southern half of First Avenue, the CDMA enjoyed “Pets on Parade” with dogs in costumes and strollers, therapy dog trainers with their canine companions, a mobile petting zoo, pet supply vendors, pet spas and veterinarians and- obviously- a pet parade!
Purveyors of off-road power were also on hand with samples of some of the biggest and fanciest pickup trucks and 4-wheel-drive vehicles around from Mitch Smith Chevrolet, Eckenrod Ford, Bill Smith Buick GMC, Tony Serra Nissan and Cullman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, along with Basch Brothers ATVs and OHVs. Food trucks and trailers provided pizza, Mexican food, shaved ice and other treats while folks took their turns on the 40-foot Ferris wheel that has become a staple of CDMA events.
Thick as Thieves performed on stage, and an assortment of other musicians entertained on sidewalks and in restaurants around the area.
Taking a little break as the sun set, busy CDMA Event Coordinator Ron Pierce told The Tribune, “The pet parade went phenomenal. CAAWA (the Cullman Area Animal Welfare Association) was here, Paige was here with Happy Tails, Hope Horses was here. We’ve got a petting zoo on a bus, and a lot more!
“We got 40 entries in the parade, and that’s all we could handle; we cut it off at 40. It’s been real good. The Ferris wheel has been free. Everybody’s been real happy, so it was a real success.”
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