This year's upcoming annual Harlan County Poke Sallet Festival was among the topics of discussion Tuesday during the Harlan Tourism and Convention Committee regular meeting.
With the Poke Sallet Festival scheduled to take place the first weekend of June, many vendors and committee members are currently in the process of making plans for what has become known over the years as one of the county's biggest events.
Dan Mosley and Barbara Buckley requested during Tuesday's meeting that the tourism committee either waive the fee for the Harlan Center or donate something to the festival project.
"We are not here to ask for money, but we thought that maybe the fee to the center could be waived," said Mosley. "Any way that you all could help would be greatly appreciated."
Mosley, the Poke Sallet Festival representative of the Harlan Fiscal Court, said the festival has become a great tourist attraction for the county over the years and that it not only means having people to shop in the county's stores, but it also added to the economy by bringing in out-of-towners to stay at the local hotels and motels and purchase necessities such as gasoline for their vehicles, as well as dining in the local restaurants.
"We did not have any way of actually counting the number of people who attended the Poke Sallet Festival last year, but we did ask some of the vendors to estimate how many they thought had attended and they gave an estimate of around 16,000 people," Mosley said. "That's a lot of people attending one event during the course of three days."
Mosley said one of the big attractions for the Poke Sallet Festival last year was the fact that up-and-coming musician Chris Knight performed at the event, noting that it was amazing at how many people came to hear Knight during the festival.
"If you were around the stage area, you could see people as far back as you looked," said Mosley. "I know that some of those people were from out of town."
Mosley also noted that moving the festival from the courthouse to the Harlan Center parking lot has been an added asset to the event, making people feel safer away from the electrical cords and the problems of equipment being set up.
The fiscal court, which has been in charge of the Poke Sallet Festival for five years and allocates the funding for each festival, has granted this year's event $19,000 in funding.
Mosley also noted that $26,000 was spent on last year's festival, with a $10,000 net return.
Buckley, a Poke Sallet committee member and organizer, said that the goal is to improve the festival with each year's events. She said this year an extra day has been added, with "Kids Day" being pushed back to Wednesday instead of the usual Thursday.
Mosley also informed the tourism committee members that gospel singers Mike and Kelly Bowling, who had a Top 10 hit on the charts last year, are scheduled to perform on the last day of the festival after Sunday church services.
Harlan Mayor Danny Howard commented on how well the festival plans are coming along and how well-organized the festival has been during the past few years.
"I commend you all on the work you have done with the festival," said Howard.
The committee agreed to donate the sum of $1,000 to the festival instead of waiving the $1,000 fee for the use of the center, making the committee a gold sponsor of this year's festival.
Mosley also added that the festival will not interfere with traffic flow on Main Street this year.
"Main Street will be kept open this year during the festival, and that will help with merchants who worry about loss of business during that time. We realize that it is the first part of the month, and that is usually a busy time for the downtown merchants," said Mosley. "But it is just for one weekend a year."
In other discussions during Tuesday's meeting, tourism executive director Kim Collier informed the commission of a meeting concerning next year's Kentucky Mountain Outdoor Expo, which is scheduled to take place on March 20-22, 2009.
Collier said that the plans for the expo are going in a good direction and that she feels confident that the event will be an asset to the area.
"I am really impressed at how well we are doing with the plans," said Collier. "We are planning to have a lot of outdoor activities as well as trying to get the National Guard to bring in some of their stuff for demonstrations."
Some of the events that are being planned for the outdoor expo include turkey calling, knife making and blacksmithing, among other demonstrations.