Volunteers Who Make An Impact: Josh and Susan Denton

DICKENS
If you attended the 31st Annual Pumpkinfest last Saturday, you know it was one for the books! Drawing a crowd of more than 40,000 people, the Heritage Foundation rallied the troops to produce a bigger, better and more entertaining street festival than ever before.

The 2014 event marked another first: as a result of the year’s board retreat, each Foundation-produced festival will now be driven by staff and supported by chairmen, similar to the annual Heritage Ball.

Foundation board member Josh Denton and his wife, Susan, acted as the Pumpkinfest’s first chairs, going above and beyond to help staff members Rene’ Evans and Krista Dial throw one of the largest street parties of the year. The pair was approached in the spring to spearhead the initiative, and supported the Pumpkinfest team with creative ideas, scheduling, entertainment, sponsorships and more.

Prior to the festival the Dentons also hosted a ribbon cutting breakfast, where sponsors event organizers and city officials were thanked. The best part? Susan cooked much of the morning spread herself!

Josh, whose family hasn’t missed a Pumpkinfest in 10 years, says that the value of the free event lies in its family-centered fun.

“This festival is a wonderful opportunity to showcase historic Franklin and all that it has to offer, especially during such a beautiful time of the year,” he says. “It’s great to be able to give back to the community by offering a fantastic—and free—experience for families throughout Middle Tennessee.”

Thank you, Josh and Susan, for using your time and resources to help further the Foundation’s mission in saving the places that matter!

The Dentons would like to give a big “thank you” to the 2014 Pumpkinfest sponsors: Sponsors for the 2014 Pumpkinfest include Bethel University; Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin, Attorneys at Law; Monroe Carrel Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt; Williamson Medical Center; Hyundai Leaf Filter; Patterson Company; The People’s Church; Children’s and Adolescent Dentistry of Franklin School of Rock; Schroder Chiropractic; Bob Parks Realty; City of Franklin; and the Downtown Franklin Association (DFA).


New York Times Writes About Franklin, Praises the Heritage Foundation

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On Oct. 24, 2014, The New York Times published a glowing piece on Franklin, Tenn., calling it a “small-town gem near Nashville”–and the Foundation is proud to say that the paper mentioned our organization. 

Excerpt: “Only a few years ago, the 1937 building was just another small-town movie theater that had gone out of business, become an eyesore and put a damper on entrepreneurial spirit. But the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County — founded in 1967 and a major force in historic preservation — swooped in, rallied community support, bought the building and spearheaded an $8.7 million renovation.”

Read the story in its entirety below, or on the NYT website here.

“A Small-Town Gem Near Nashville”
by Christian L. Wright

It was Sunday night at the Cork & Cow. Around 6:30, four girlfriends met at the bar to have salads and Champagne and review the weekend. There was a nice hum in the dining room, where six couples had assembled at a long table along the tufted green banquette. At least a few of them had come for the weekly special that February evening: a $20 prime rib dinner and half-price bottles of wine. My sister and I had spent the day in Nashville and just wanted a quick bite, so we popped in to share some brussels sprouts and warm bread that came in a small cast-iron skillet. Service took a while, but no one seemed to mind. This is the pace of the South.

The steakhouse is in a two-story brick building on the corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue South in downtown Franklin, Tenn. It’s not far from the town square, which is marked by a monument to the Confederate soldier, and across from a toy store that sells little wooden pickup trucks and novelties like garlic chewing gum. In recent years, a Starbucks and an Anthropologie have moved in along this five-block stretch. But it’s like a fantasy of small-town Main Street: brick sidewalks and cobblestone crosswalks, antique street lamps alternating with trees along the curb, wood-framed storefronts housing independent businesses, some spanking new, and well-preserved, low-slung buildings from the early 1900s all in a row.

Franklin is a Southern gem hiding in the shadow of Nashville, less than 20 miles north. Some call it a suburb of Music City — and plenty of farmland has been developed into subdivisions, strip malls and office plazas — but Franklin is a world away, with a history and culture all its own. Founded in 1799 and named in honor of Ben Franklin, the town is speckled with American artifacts, from Civil War bullet holes in the side of an outbuilding at the Carter House to a red brick factory with a tall, skinny chimney that produced Magic Chef stoves until 1959.

The 16-block historic downtown and three small residential districts that surround it won National Register of Historic Places status in 1975. It’s the kind of place where names on the slanting gray gravestones in the old cemeteries match the names of today’s prominent businessmen and local track and field stars. Maybe it doesn’t possess Savannah’s sultriness or the pedigree of Charleston, but the tea is just as sweet in the rolling hills of what the people around here call Middle Tennessee.

I never would have found Franklin if it weren’t for my sister, Lizzie. She moved here in 2009 with her family when her husband was hired as the head of the middle school at Battle Ground Academy, a private day school that was established in 1889. By now, I’ve visited often enough to see the place evolve and to witness the prosperity that is spilling over from Nashville’s boom times. Big corporations like Nissan have moved into the area, once a purely agricultural economy, bringing enough people and money to support a Whole Foods and tasteful new apartment complexes. And yet the place retains its small-town character — the population is barely over 66,000 — and a lovely old horse farm sprawls atop a hill overlooking the football field at the school.

Once, while the children were in school and Lizzie had the day off work as a nurse practitioner, we went rummaging around the Second Avenue antiques district, a “district” that’s the size of a postage stamp and spread among an old flour mill and a few houses that date from the early 1900s but draws an international clientele.

Among the stalls at the Franklin Antique Mall, opened some 30 years ago, you can find everything from a circa 1940s fat-man cookie jar and good Irish lace to a copper weather vane in the shape of a rooster and a cache of tarnished flatware, some of it sterling. Floors are uneven, ceilings are low, and there is plenty of mustiness, but in the warrens it’s possible to find a treasure. There, up on a high shelf, alongside a couple of wooden buckets, sat a dusty rose pitcher.

“Could I see that, please,” I said to the woman with reading glasses on a chain. “What, darlin’?” That pink pitcher, please. She brought it down, and lo, it was an authentic Russel Wright, from the early ’60s, which I could snap up long before it ended up at the nice new shops in Hudson and Rhinebeck and other bustling towns in the Hudson Valley in New York. The price was $50; I offered $25; the woman made a phone call; sold! for $30. (Later I found one of similar vintage on eBay for a starting bid of $79.95.) My sister was a little embarrassed by my haggling. “She’s visiting from New York City,” said Lizzie to the woman, who went to look for Bubble Wrap.

The flea market gold mine is about two blocks from the main square and four blocks from the Franklin Theater, the Art Deco cinema that’s the pride of Main Street. Only a few years ago, the 1937 building was just another small-town movie theater that had gone out of business, become an eyesore and put a damper on entrepreneurial spirit. But the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County — founded in 1967 and a major force in historic preservation — swooped in, rallied community support, bought the building and spearheaded an $8.7 million renovation. “We had to reinvent it, not just save it,” said Dan Hays, the former head of the International Bluegrass Music Association in Nashville and now director of the theater. It’s now a 300-seat theater with a full bar, and it screens classic films, hosts society events and books local acts, like Sheryl Crow. “A lot of talent lives in Williamson County. We wanted to take advantage of that,” Mr. Hays said. “And it’s spurring activity on Main Street. It’s that pixie dust that changes a community.”

The change is perfectly obvious at Frothy Monkey, a branch of the original coffeehouse in Nashville. Against a backdrop of repurposed wood, exposed pipes and sustainable practices, in a converted house across from the First United Methodist Church, the late-morning crowd reveals a creative class that’s migrated into town. Small groups hatch plans over carrot muffins, a young couple sports footwear from Isabel Marant and Yohji Yamamoto, students from the local O’More College of Design get Americanos to go, and parties of one hunch over MacBooks.

“It’s the perfect life out here,” said John Hermann, the drummer from Widespread Panic who moved from New York (with a stop in Oxford, Miss.) years ago and is raising a family here. “People are friendly. ­People have time,” he said. “And everybody’s a songwriter. The way I meet a songwriter is when my furnace goes out. The Terminix guy, he’s a songwriter.”

Of course, there are some who have quit their day jobs. Plenty of the big names who play in Nashville live in Franklin, some out toward Leiper’s Fork. It’s worth taking the 15-minute drive to the village where older folks in Carhartt meet for lunch at the Country Boy Restaurant, and the original Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant sits behind a single gas pump in all its ramshackle glory.

Leiper’s Fork would be a complete time warp except for the housewares shop that sells antique dish cupboards for $1,295, the David Arms Gallery in a converted barn, and the sophisticated security systems of the secluded estates all around. A refugee from New York bought a farm there and now features its fruits at Joe Natural’s Farm Store and Cafe.

A few weeks ago, as I was heading back to have dinner with my niece and nephew in Franklin, I took a back road through countryside reminiscent of an English landscape, with cows and streams and stone walls and clouds skimming the tops of the trees. Oh beautiful, for spacious skies, as the song goes.

IF YOU GO

WHERE TO EAT

Frothy Monkey, 125 Fifth Avenue South; 615-465-6279; frothymonkey.com.

Cork & Cow, 403 Main Street; 615-538-6021; corkandcow­.com. Open for dinner.

Dotson’s Restaurant, 99 East Main Street; 615-794-2805. An old-school meat-and-three with first-rate fried chicken.

Gray’s on Main, 332 Main Street; 615-435-3603; graysonmain­.com. A gastro pub in a recently rehabbed old pharmacy that’s good for lunch and has music at night (plus a private club on the top floor).

WHERE TO STAY

In the sprawl, there are any number of chain hotels, from Marriott to Drury. For a more local flavor, try the Jefferson House, from about 1900, in the historic district, with three bedrooms and a leafy garden; from $200 per night with a two-night minimum; 615-281-0401; vrbo.com/3495690ha.

In Leiper’s Fork, set up at Brigadoon, an enchanted little house built in 1885, appointed with an assured style that might stop Ralph Lauren in his riding boots. It’s comfortable for four; weekend rate, starting Thursday, is $250 per night, plus a $125 cleaning fee; 615-281-0401; vrbo.com/337233.

WHAT TO DO

The historic downtown is compact and best seen on foot. At the visitors’ center on Fourth Avenue North, just off Main Street, pick up a map that covers the town in six walking routes, divided into themes like Historic Homes and Haunts & Headstones. (There’s also an app — and loaner iPads.) For something more bucolic, explore the trails of Harlinsdale Farm, a former Tennessee Walking Horse compound that’s now a public park.

The Brooklyn Flea has nothing on Franklin’s antiques district at Second Avenue South and South Margin Street. Haven (343 Main Street, sanctuaryofstyle­.com) sells Helmut Lang trousers and books from Assouline out of an old grocery with original wooden elevator; French’s Boots & Shoes (328 Fifth Avenue North; frenchsbootsandshoes.com) has the latest cowboy boots and secondhand Uggs. Rare Prints Gallery (420 Main Street; rareprintsgallery.com) is as much museum as retailer of old engravings.

The Civil War sites — the Carter House, Lotz House and Carnton Plantation — are eerie reminders of the Battle of Franklin in 1864, one of the bloodiest of the war. The guided tours take time, but you can get admission to all three for $30; carnton.org.

A version of this article appears in print on October 26, 2014, on page TR4 of the New York edition with the headline: A Small-Town Gem Near Nashville.


Celebrate Pumpkinfest At Our Ribbon Cutting!

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One of the most anticipated Middle Tennessee events of the fall season is just around the corner: the 31st annual Pumpkinfest returns this Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., bringing a full day of free entertainment to families in the area.

Presented by the Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County, the festival will stretch along downtown Franklin’s Main Street from First to Fifth Avenues, and will also include portions of Third and Fourth Avenues. Attendees can expect a day of live music and dancing, costume contests, more than 80 arts and crafts booths, a Franklin Tomorrow chili cook-off, pumpkin carving and much more.

Prior to the festival, the Foundation will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony beginning at the City Hall stage at 9:45 a.m., where local members, event organizers and city officials will recognize the importance of the festival to the downtown Franklin community—as well as the sponsors who have made the 31st event happen.

Josh Denton, Heritage Foundation board member and co-chair of the 31st Annual Pumpkinfest with his wife Susan, says that the value of the free event lies in its family-centered fun.

“This festival is a wonderful opportunity to showcase historic Franklin and all that it has to offer — especially during such a beautiful time of the year,” Denton said. “It’s great to be able to give back to the community by offering a fantastic—and free—experience for families throughout Middle Tennessee.”

Sponsors for the 2014 Pumpkinfest include Bethel University; Gullett Sanford Robinson & Martin, Attorneys at Law; Monroe Carrel Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt; Williamson Medical Center; Hyundai
Leaf Filter;
Patterson Company; The People’s Church; Children’s and Adolescent Dentistry of Franklin School of Rock; Schroder Chiropractic; Bob Parks Realty; City of Franklin; and the Downtown Franklin Association (DFA).

For more information about costume contests and the entertainment schedule, visit www.historicfranklin.com or call 615-591-8500.

Who: Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County

What: 31st Annual Pumpkinfest ribbon cutting

When: Saturday, Oct. 25; 9:45 a.m.

Where: City Hall Stage

The Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County and its division, the Downtown Franklin Association, produce Pumpkinfest each October. The annual festival is just one of the many activities presented by the non-profit group, which was founded in 1967 to protect and preserve Williamson County’s historic, architectural and geographic resources. 


31st Annual Pumpkinfest Returns! Join us Oct. 25, 2014

Pumpkinfest (19)Franklin’s favorite fall celebration is returning to Main Street this month, and this time it’s bigger and better than ever.

The 31st annual Pumpkinfest will take place on Oct. 25 from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., bringing a full day of free entertainment to families in the area. Presented by the Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County, the festival will stretch along Main Street from First to Fifth avenues, and will also include portions of Third and Fourth avenues. Attendees can expect a day of live music, various contests, an array of arts and crafts booths, a chili cook-off and much more.

In addition, The Great Pumpkin will be making an appearance at Pumpkinfest after traveling across the country from Franklin’s sister city, Carleton Place, Ontario, Canada. Festivalgoers will have the chance to participate in a “Guess the Weight” contest where one lucky winner will take home a $50 gift certificate to Stroud’s Barbecue.

Other activities at this year’s Pumpkinfest include:

  • Two stages offering continuous entertainment from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
  • The Bethel University stage at City Hall will feature five performance groups from Bethel’s Renaissance program: two bluegrass bands, a Southern gospel quartet, a 15-voice group and a 55-member choir.
  • The School of Rock stage at Five Points will feature a variety of local performance schools and regional groups.
  • Then at 5 p.m. on the School of Rock stage, The People’s Church will present theBattle of the Bands, a competition between four teenage bands—the winner will go home with a cash prize of $500. For band audition information, email Danielle at dberg@thepeopleschurch.org.
  • A vibrant children’s area, presented by The People’s Church, will be located on Third Avenue South and will include pumpkin painting, free games, pony and train rides, inflatables and more.
  • A separate area of attractions for older children will be available on Fourth Avenue North, and will feature bungee jumping, a mechanical bull and a spider web mountain.
  • More than 80 arts and crafts booths will feature unique, handcrafted wares that complement fall and the holiday season including jewelry, food and home décor items. Booths will be open along Main Street from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Over a dozen food vendors will be selling traditional street festival favorites like corn dogs and hot dogs, barbecue, funnel cakes and kettle corn, as well as fresh bagels, gourmet coffee, fish tacos and jambalaya.
  • A community swing dance will commence at 4:45 p.m. on the Public Square to the sounds of 5 Points Swing. Unsure of your swing dance skills?  Local dancers will be there to warm you up with brief instructions before the band starts up.
  • The Franklin Tomorrow Chili Cook-Off will feature 15 teams competing for the 12th annual title. A $10 ticket includes a 2 oz. sample from each team, and beer will be available for purchase in conjunction with the Chili Cook-Off. The tent will be located on Third Avenue North, where competitors will be serving from 10:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.
  • An extreme pumpkin carving contest will feature the Leiper’s Fork Carving Club and their work. The public will have a chance to vote on their favorite carved pumpkin, plus the opportunity to purchase one via silent auction.
  • Children, adults and even pets can compete in four categories during the annual costume contest. The categories are: pets; children, ages 0-2; 3-5; 6-11; 12+ and groups. Registration is limited to the first 40 entrants in each category and includes a $2 entry fee. Those who wish to participate can sign-up from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. near the Bethel University Renaissance stage at City Hall. Competition will begin at 2 p.m.
  • Offsite parking will be available at both Harlinsdale Park and The People’s Church, with trolley rides to downtown for $1 per person each way, which will run from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Pets and strollers are not permitted on the trolleys.

Pumpkinfest is produced by the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County and its division, the Downtown Franklin Association. The annual October festival is just one of the many activities presented by the non-profit group, which was founded in 1967 to protect and preserve Williamson County’s historic, architectural and geographic resources. For more information, call 615-591-8500!

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