Main Street Festival Drives Nearly $3 Million in Economic Impact

Two-Day Attendance at 125,000, with 28% From Outside Middle Tennessee 

In its 32nd year, downtown Franklin’s Main Street Festival attracted 125,000 attendees and generated nearly $3 million in economic impact, according to a study conducted during the event in late April. The free street festival, produced by the non-profit Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County, has long been recognized as a favorite in the Southeast.

“We wanted to gauge the impact of what this festival means to Franklin and Williamson County, and this study has provided some important insight,” said Mary Pearce, executive director of the Heritage Foundation. “We’re very pleased by the findings, but not necessarily surprised – people from all over look forward to the Main Street Festival each year, and we’re focused on continually enhancing the experience.”

A survey of 432 respondents indicated that while the majority of attendees reside in Williamson, Davidson and Rutherford counties, approximately 28% came from outside the area, including states such as Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania. A reported 12% stayed overnight while visiting the Franklin area, with 50% of those staying three nights or more.

Two-thirds of attendees planned to shop and dine with merchants on downtown Franklin’s Main Street, and also spent money with the dozens of arts and craft vendors at the festival. On average, overnighters spent $194.10 per person, with day-trippers spending $33.03 per person.

Demographically, 43 percent of the respondents (59% female) were between the ages of 35 and 54, while 30 percent were 55 or older and 27 percent were between the ages of 18 and 34. Festival attendees tend to have high annual household incomes, with 41 percent reporting making more than $100,000 per year. The average party size for festival attendees was 3.42.

Respondents overwhelmingly said they plan to return to the Main Street Festival in 2015. The Heritage Foundation produces other signature events throughout the year on Franklin’s Public Square, with 72 percent reporting having attended Pumpkinfest in October and 63 percent attending Dickens of a Christmas.

The study was conducted by Franklin-based Chandlerthinks, a research and marketing firm that developed the survey and analyzed the results.

“These findings underscore the importance of events like Main Street Festival to the economic and cultural vitality of downtown Franklin and all of Williamson County,” said CEO Steve Chandler. “Clearly, the Heritage Foundation is playing a critical role in the community.”

Board Spotlight: Donna Douglas

The Heritage Foundation commemorated nearly a half-century of preservation work and several outstanding historic restoration projects at our 47th Annual Meeting & Preservation Awards in May 2014.

The annual meeting also revealed the new slate of Heritage Foundation executive committee and board members. To thank those individuals who have committed to serve this organization and its mission, we’re helping you to get know them a little bit better in our new “Board Spotlight” series.

First up, Donna Douglas–a new member with plenty of energy for preservation work.

Donna Douglas on site at the Old, Old Jail
Donna Douglas on site at the Old, Old Jail

Name: Donna Douglas

Hometown: Milford, Michigan

Where do you work? I’m the Director of Human Resources at Jackson National Life Insurance

How long have you lived in Williamson County? 3.5 years

What is your favorite aspect of Franklin/Williamson County? It’s a big city with small town feel. I grew up on a farm, so I love the comfort of a rural environment and enjoy the conveniences the surrounding area offers me and my family.

In your opinion, what makes Franklin/Williamson County unique? The level of commitment towards economic development, preservation of historical sites/landmarks and community/charitable giving stand out.

Describe the people of this community in one phrase, word or sentence: The people of Franklin/Williamson County care about their community.

How did you learn about the Heritage Foundation’s work? Through Jackson’s involvement with the Heritage Foundation and the Franklin Theatre.

Why did you decide to devote your time to the Heritage Foundation? My love of historical preservation and community giving.

Do you currently serve on any other board and/or volunteer with any other organizations? I currently serve on the Franklin Theatre Board. I’m involved with many non-profit organizations that focus on children and the elderly (KaBoom Playground Build, Second Harvest Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House).

Do you have a favorite quote/saying? Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.  – Maya Angelou

Thank you for serving, Donna! To learn more about our board, go here.

Leading the DFA Charge: Kristy Williams (A Q&A)

Among the Heritage Foundation’s programs is the Downtown Franklin Association (DFA), an organization that promotes and revitalizes the 150 unique places to explore in our historic core. After 10 years of serving the Heritage Foundation, we are proud to announce that our own Kristy Williams will take over as the Main Street Program Director!

To let you get to know Kristy a bit better, we’ve put together a quick Q&A. Learn more about her:

Q: How long have you worked at the Heritage Foundation, Kristy? A: 10 years

Q: Before the Foundation, what were you doing? A: I worked in banking for 19 years. I left Franklin National Bank to work for the Heritage Foundation.

Q: If you were to use three adjectives to describe the Franklin community, what would they would be? A: Exciting, friendly, and unique

Q: Why have you worked with the Heritage Foundation for a decade? A: I have been able learn, work with and meet wonderful people. Seeing this community step up to save the Franklin Theatre is just one of many examples of people making a difference here.

Q: In your opinion, what is it that makes downtown Franklin so special? The character and charm of Historic Downtown Franklin. I love all of the shops and restaurants here along with the people that own and run them. It is my favorite place to enjoy everything from shopping, a meal, coffee, entertainment and a walk.

Q: Now to the personal stuff! What was your favorite decade (’70s, ’80s, ’90s…)? A: The 80s….1880s that is!

Q: What’s your favorite Franklin event or festival? A: I enjoy all the festivals in Downtown Franklin.  From the costume contest at Pumpkinfest to all the fun characters at Dickens… you are in for a treat!

Q: How do you unwind?  A: A great conversation with a friend, an afternoon nap, or a trip to the beach.

Q: What’s your favorite way to celebrate your birthday?  For my 50th birthday I rode a camel…. that was something fun and different!

Q: We hear you’re a animal person. Tell us about it. A: My husband, Jeff, and I have always had dogs and currently have a Border Collie we rescued.  He has served as a therapy dog and been photographed and published in Lands’ End catalogue.

Q: What’s something people might not know about you? A: I have almost 90 cousins!

Q: What other activities are you involved with? A: A board member at Saddle Up!, and an advisory board member for the Franklin Farmers Market.

Q: Who is your favorite author? A: Ernest Hemingway

We’re thrilled to have Kristy leading the downtown Franklin charge! If you want to welcome her personally, stop by our offices at 134 Second Avenue North.

Today, downtown Franklin is an oasis of Southern hospitality housed in a 16-block National Register district of antique shops, gift and book stores, restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, lovingly restored homes and more. It boasts an award-winning Main Street, a stunning collection of more than 150 buildings on the National Register and a host of “Best of“ accolades–including Garden & Gun magazine’s 2014 “Best Southern Town.” Learn more about downtown Franklin here.

Volunteers Who Make An Impact: Bob Rudman

Hundreds of dedicated volunteers help the Heritage Foundation make the impact it does. This is part of a “Volunteers Who Make An Impact” series, to thank those individuals who dedicate their time to the organization’s mission.

books“Bob Rudman is one of my ‘go to’ people,” says Mary Pearce, executive director of the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County. And that might mean anything.

Bob can be seen tending bar and pouring wine at Heritage Foundation events, delivering Heritage Foundation books to area merchants who retail the books, setting up book signings for local authors, and even dressing as the Easter Bunny and greeting children at the Franklin Theatre’s Easter movie event. It’s a good thing that he spent his career thinking outside the box and making unlikely connections, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s never met a stranger.

Bob’s involvement with the Heritage Foundation began shortly after he and his wife, Missy, moved from New England to Franklin in 2004.

Bob’s first volunteer stint was at a street festival and it wasn’t long until it evolved into a three-year, full-time commitment. While demolition was underway at the Franklin Theatre between 2008 and 2010, the insurance premium was considerably less if the building was occupied, so Bob and his friend Denny Kohan showed up every day to give the building “occupied” status. Not only did their presence save the Foundation thousands of dollars in insurance premiums, they were also available to open and lock up the building for various contractors and deliveries, saving the staff valuable time and resources.

As folks realized a Heritage Foundation volunteer was at the building every day, people began to drop by to reminisce and share stories, which gave Bob the idea of selling artifacts from the building as souvenirs. Together Bob and Denny sold the seats, light fixtures, tables, fire extinguishers, and anything else that would have been discarded, netting thousands of dollars for the Heritage Foundation and saving tons of trash from the landfill. Bob’s ingenuity not only had a significant financial impact on the theatre, it also contributed to the building’s “green” rating.

“I can count on Bob to do whatever we need him to do,” Mary says. “He is the consummate goodwill ambassador — one of those people whose creativity, energy and good humor change the temperature of the room when he walks in, and in the best way possible. His Northern social graces exude Southern hospitality, and we are privileged to count him a friend of the Heritage Foundation.”

To learn how to volunteer, go here.

10th Annual Juneteenth Celebration in Franklin

full_15484You won’t want to miss the 10th Annual Juneteenth Celebration: “A Celebration of Freedom” coming up Saturday, June 21! Presented by the African American Heritage Society (AAHS) and sponsored by the Hard Bargain Association, each year the celebration coincides with similar events throughout the country to mark the date when slavery ended on June 19, 1865. Plus, this year’s big event will be a commemoration of the Sesquicentennial of the Battle of Franklin!

Join the Foundation at the McLemore House Museum Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., for live music, free games, a gospel group performance and more!

According to the Franklin Home Page, attendees of all ages will be well-fed with barbecue and fish from MoeBetter, hot dogs, ice cream and strawberry sodas. Plus, there’s a cakewalk: contestants hope for a winning number that delivers a delicious cake provided by elected officials, judges, representatives and even one from Gov. Bill Haslam.

Learn more about the day on the Franklin Home Page here.


Community Bands Present 3rd Annual Franklin Theatre Concert, July 8

The Williamson County Community Band program will celebrate its 14th season in grand style with a special evening concert at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 8 at the historic Franklin Theatre! Doors open at 6 p.m.

Opening the concert, Williamson County Community Band director, Ken Krause, has a rich evening of entertainment planned with a program of crowd-pleasing classics by the entire 60-member community band.

This all volunteer band is made up of amateur and professional musicians of varying ages and will surprise you with the caliber of talent they possess. The second act will feature the Big Band ensemble, “5 Points Swing”, led my Matt Jablonka, and they will wrap up the evening’s entertainment with their seasoned musicians and powerful vocalists by re-creating the swingin’ sounds of popular tunes from the Big Band era.

This is a performance not to be missed! Tickets for the concert featuring the Williamson County Community Band and “5 Points Swing” are available at the Franklin Theatre box office or on-line at For this event, cabaret seating is $22, balcony seating is $17 and classic seating is $12.


39th Annual Tour of Homes: One Of The Best Yet!

Eleven local property owners opened their doors to host the Town & Country Tour of Homes, June 7-8, 2014, and more than 1,100 people turned out for the 39th annual event, which benefits the Heritage Foundation!

In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin, the Foundation’s tour featured homes and buildings standing on that fateful day, and placed a special emphasis on the Civil War tales surrounding the respective properties. As a new feature, the event also included costumed re-enactors and period demostrations at many of the sites. Trained volunteers were stationed throughout the properties to relate stories of the respective homes or businesses from the perspectives of the people in the midst of the fray. Some of the sites hosted live music and refreshments, too!

The Foundation is thrilled that so many individuals turned out to support the organization and to view the community’s preservation work. We look forward to its four decade celebration in 2015! Learn more about this year’s tour here.

Julian Bibb III To Steer Heritage Foundation As Board President

Bibb (1)
Julian Bibb III

When National Preservation Month rolls around each May, the Heritage Foundation of Franklin & Williamson County uses the occasion to celebrate the past year’s accomplishments, recognize outstanding historic preservation projects, and announce new Board members at its annual meeting and preservation awards banquet.

On May 20 the organization added seven respected community leaders to its Board of Directors, including Julian Bibb III of Franklin, who was elected to serve a three-year term as the Foundation’s Board president. The non-profit also revealed its new slate of executive committee members, a group that will help drive the Foundation’s flagship project: the restoration of the Old, Old Jail—or the Big House for Historic Preservation—that will serve as the organization’s first permanent headquarters, once renovated.

Leading the charge for the 2014-2015 year with Bibb is Joe Walker, Vice President of Finance; Angela Calhoun, Secretary; Fred Reynolds, Vice President of Preservation; Connie Haley, Vice President of Member Development; Andy Marshall, Vice President of the Franklin Theatre; Bob Roethemeyer, Vice President of the Main Street Program (elected by the Downtown Franklin Association); and Philip Dial, Vice President of the Next Generation Heritage Foundation (elected by Next Gen).

Sean Carroll, Pam Chandler, Josh Denton, Emily Magid, Craig Holland and Donna Douglas were also named as new Board members to help propel Williamson County’s preservation efforts over the coming years. Other at-large board members coming back from the 2013-2014 year include Brian Beathard, Bryan Echols, Kelly Harwood, Ann Johnson, Rudy Jordan, William Powell, Marianne Schroer, and Dr. Allen Sills.

“The organization has a long legacy of 47 years of successes, and much of that is attributable to the efforts of a strong Board of Directors and Executive Committee,” said Mary Pearce, Heritage Foundation executive director. “These individuals have a passion for preserving our community’s treasures, and we’re honored that they are willing to give of their time and talents to ensure that the Heritage Foundation achieves its mission on behalf of Williamson County and Tennessee.”

Bibb will be taking the reins from outgoing President Cyril Stewart, who was honored at the 2014 awards ceremony and annual meeting for his service to the Foundation.

A lifelong Franklinite, Bibb is the chairperson of Stites & Harbison, PLLC’s Real Estate & Banking Service Group and a respected real estate attorney. In addition, he counsels not-for-profits and has extensive experience in historic and battlefield preservation, as well as land conservation.

Bibb has been recognized for a bevy of civic contributions over the years. Most recently, he received the Community Supporter Award from the African-American Heritage Society; was a recipient of the Nashville Business Journal’s 2014 Williamson County Impact Award, which he also received in 2007; was named a Lifetime Legacy Award winner from the Williamson County-Franklin Chamber of Commerce; and was recognized by the Nashville Post as a “difference maker.”

“Among my biggest passions has always been my family and Franklin,” Bibb said. “The two go hand-in-hand with the Heritage Foundation’s mission to preserve legacies for generations to come, and I’m proud to be part of that vision.”

In the community, Bibb has served on a number of boards, including Leadership Franklin, an organization he helped co-found. In addition to the Heritage Foundation, he is also an active Board member of Franklin’s Charge, the Williamson County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, and Cumberland Region Tomorrow.

He is also the chairperson, as well as a Board member, of the Transportation Management Association, and serves as president of the Tennessee Board of Law Examiners. In addition, he is the pro-bono legal counsel for a number of non-profit organizations, including the Land Trust for Tennessee.

Bibb lives in Franklin with his wife, Jayne.

Since 1968, the not-for-profit Heritage Foundation’s mission has been to protect and preserve the architectural, geographic and cultural heritage of Franklin and Williamson County, and to promote the ongoing economic revitalization of downtown Franklin in the context of historic preservation.

Heritage Foundation Honors 23 Properties at 2014 Annual Meeting

[pictured: Dan Brown, Andy Marshall, Jan Marshall, Mary Pearce, Cheryl Thompson, Cyril Stewart and Mel Thompson at last night’s banquet]

The Heritage Foundation commemorated nearly half a century of preservation work at its 47th Annual Meeting and Preservation Awards May 20, 2014, at the Franklin Theatre. Go here to see photos from the evening.

Each May, the non-profit organization uses the evening to recap the past year’s accomplishments and celebrate outstanding historic preservation projects.

Taking home the top honors this year were GRAY’S on Main and the Harris-McEwen Home, downtown Franklin properties that nabbed the Overall Winner awards for commercial and residential rehabilitation, respectively.

The commercial category winner has a long history on Main Street: Set in a ca. 1876 Victorian building, the Gray Drug Co. was a landmark pharmacy in downtown Franklin for nearly a century. Vacant for the better part of the past decade, the Gray’s building was nearly a victim of demolition by neglect before Andy Marshall—owner of the Puckett’s family of restaurants and GRAY’S on Main co-owner—purchased the building in 2012.

GRAY’S co-owner Michael Cole then oversaw the long construction process, maintaining or reusing many of the original details to herald the soul of the building. The three-story original layout of the building remains largely unaltered, and the GRAY’S team focused on ensuring that the restoration best utilized existing spaces. Tin ceilings, historic wall textures and finishes and structural timbers were all preserved to celebrate the building’s character.

Mel and Cheryl Thompson, owners of the overall residential award winner Harris-McEwen home, spent three years renovating the bones of the ca. 1830 building and restoring it to its original splendor, when it was stomping grounds to Mayor John McEwen of Franklin during the Civil War.

The couple took pains to bring the home back to the historic structure, removing additions that had been added after 1867 and restoring rooms to original sizes and functions. The Thompsons also duplicated the original trim, molding and flooring.

The Harris-McEwen Home is one of the highlights of the Foundation’s 39th Annual Town & Country Tour of Homes, taking place June 7-8.

“The two winners are wonderful examples of historic rehabilitation, with regards to both commercial and residential renovations,” said Mary Pearce, executive director of the Heritage Foundation. “The property owners have saved jewels of this community, and their visions have helped the Foundation protect and preserve another small piece of our heritage. This is historic preservation done the right way.”

In addition to the two grand Preservation Award prizes, the Heritage Foundation recognized 21 separate projects that demonstrate the value of preservation, including rehabilitations of residential and commercial structures, and new construction projects that complement the historic character of Williamson County.

The Town of Thompson’s Station was included in the honors for placing a conservation easement with the Land Trust of Tennessee on 1600 Thompson Station Road West. The Stutz/Douty property and Hatcher Farm also received Conservation Land Easements from the Land Trust for Tennessee.

The following additional properties received recognition in the 2014 ceremony:

  • The Gooch House, owned by Ann Johnson (Award of Merit for outside of the historic overlay district, residential)
  • The Dozier Home, owned by Chris Rudd and Kirstin Hobday of Thrive Homes (Award of Merit for historic overlay district, residential)
  • The Historic Reynolds Bungalow, owned by Fred and Linda Reynolds (Award of Merit for outside of historic overlay district, residential)
  • Ravenswood, owned by the City of Brentwood (Award of Merit for outside of historic overlay district, commercial)
  • Bittersweet Primitives, owned by Debbie Miller (Award of Merit for historic overlay district, commercial)
  • 113 Second Avenue North, owned by St. Philip Catholic Church (Award of Merit for historic overlay district, commercial)
  • Annex/Old Garage at 109 Jennings Street, owned by David W. Garrett (Award of Merit for outside of the historic overlay district, commercial)
  • Savory Spice Shop, owned by David and Hollie Rollins (Award of Merit for historic overlay district, commercial)
  • 125 Third Avenue North, owned by Travis Anderson (Award of Merit for historic overlay district, commercial)
  • Harlinsdale Barn, owned by the City of Franklin (Award of Merit for outside of historic overlay district, commercial)
  • Jamison Station/Cottages on Old Liberty, owned by Carbine & Associates (Award of Merit for historic overlay district, residential)
  • The Pitts Residence, owned by Dan and Paige Pitts (Award of Merit for outside of historic overlay district, residential)
  • The River Rose, owned by Mark and April Cantrell (Award of Merit for outside of historic overlay district, residential)
  • The Christensen Residence, owned by Matt and Kara Christensen (Award of Merit for outside of historic overlay district, residential)
  • The Hannah Residence, owned by Alex Gregg (Award of Merit for historic overlay district, residential)
  • 1254 Adams Street, owned by Chris and Melanie Barnes (Award of Merit for historic overlay district, residential)
  • Monica Bright’s New Home, owned by the Hard Bargain Association (Award of Merit and Non-Profit Special Award for historic overlay district, residential)
  • The Nolensville School, owned by Nolensville Historical Society (Award of Merit for outside of the historic overlay district, commercial)

For the second year in a row, Dan Brown, a certified local government coordinator with the Tennessee Historical Commission, judged the 2014 competition. To learn more about the annual meeting and its highlights, go to

Since 1968, the not-for-profit Heritage Foundation’s mission has been to protect and preserve the architectural, geographic and cultural heritage of Franklin and Williamson County, and to promote the ongoing economic revitalization of downtown Franklin in the context of historic preservation.


Preservation & People Report: Mel & Cheryl Thompson

harris-mcewen-houseThe ca. 1830 Harris-McEwen House was home to Franklin’s Civil War-era Mayor John McEwen, who helplessly surrendered the town to the Union Army in 1862. The first part of the home was built in 1830 by Kerry Harris—a one story home facing Fifth Avenue. In 1849-1850 John McEwen purchased the home and added a large addition. Here’s the story of how one local couple took the home back to its original structure…

It was during the Heritage Foundation’s 2009 Town & Country Tour of Homes that Mel Thompson overheard someone say that the historic McEwen home had been confiscated by the bank, and was for sale.

Now, just five years later, Mel and Cheryl Thompson own that same home–the one named the 2014 Overall Winner (Residential) in the Foundation’s annual Preservation Awards banquet on May, 2014.

The Harris-McEwen House, which serves as a monument to preservation in the context of residential restoration, is also one of the highlights of the 39th Annual Town & Country Tour of Homes, June 7-8.

“My wife and I had always admired the home, so as soon as I heard there was a possibility it was for sale I looked into it right away!” Thompson said. “I did some research, got in contact with the bank and a week later we bought the house.”

The couple immediately began renovating the bones of the structure, restoring it to its former glory. The process was a labor of love: it took over three years to complete, with the Thompsons taking it back to its original structure.

Mel says the home’s heritage became a hobby for the couple, as he began researching the historical architecture. He became fascinated with the process, and was adamant about terminating the additions that had been added to the house after 1867, and restoring rooms to their originals sizes and functions. He also paid close attention to detail in order to maintain the beautiful slate roof, as well as duplicate the original trim, molding and flooring of the building.

Dan Brown, a certified local government coordinator with the Tennessee Historical Commission who judged the 2014 Preservation Awards, gushed about the Thompsons work on the home

“This is a truly outstanding project,” he said at the awards ceremony. “On par with preservation work seen in Charleston and New Orleans. It’s exceptional.”

But paying homage to the past doesn’t stop at the door: the home also nods to its lineage through its exquisite interior décor. The Thompsons say nearly 90 percent of its furnishings are antiques, ranging from the 1780’s up to the early 1900’s.

Mel notes the light fixtures, which originated in the late 1800’s, to the design of the drapes in the living room and the upholstered fabric covering the furniture—all have a back-story. Even the rugs date back to the 1800’s.

When asked about one of his favorite features, Mel references the ceiling. During an 1867 renovation, an Italian artist was commissioned to paint it with medallions—a feature which today remain in tact, and will be a highlight for those guests on the Tour of Homes.

As for their participation in the annual fundraiser, Mel says he’s looking forward to being a stop on the circuit.

“We are excited to be able to share a part of Franklin’s past with the community,” he said.

To read about Mel Thompson and his Towne Creek Realty business in our “Faces of Franklin” series here.