With fingers crossed and a note of cautious optimism filling the cyberspace, discussion at Tuesday’s work session for the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen turned toward requests for special event permits for a couple of music festivals scheduled for the Park at Harlinsdale Farm.
One was from the organizers of the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival, now in its seventh year after the 2020 event was canceled because of the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s festival is scheduled for Sept. 25-26, with acts to be named later.
New to the scene is the Bourbon and Bubbles event sponsored by iHeart Media scheduled for Saturday, May 22. It would feature live music with acoustic sets from 5-9 p.m. and be limited to 2,000 attendees. Fifteen percent of the proceeds would benefit Friends of Franklin Parks.
Representatives from both festivals stressed through Zoom that safety precautions will be taken to accommodate whatever the pandemic’s status is later this year.
“With iHeart Media being a big corporate organization, we are being very cautious in making sure that we are doing all the things we need to do to keep everyone safe, so we will be very diligent,” said Candace Price, iHeart Media’s regional event director. “We’re looking forward to making this an annual event.”
Brandt Wood, one of the cofounders and organizers of the Pilgrimage Festival along with Kevin Griffin and Michael Whelan, said that even though last year’s event had to be canceled, the team has stayed busy making plans for the 2021 version.
“It’s exciting to be looking at more daylight with regards to COVID,” he told city of Franklin staff and aldermen. “It’s been a super-trying year. You guys approved our permit last year, and we simply made the right call along with the rest of our industry to table plans towards festivals, mass gatherings or any gatherings.
“But we haven’t let grass grow under our feet, so to speak; we’ve been planning with ample time to put a great lineup together.”
While city staff recommends approval for permits to be granted to both festivals, there was a sticking point of sorts with Pilgrimage. Festival organizers have requested that hours of the event be extended from 8:30 to 10 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. The request for Saturday is fine, but staff and a few aldermen balked on going that late on Sunday.
“I have a concern about 10 on Sunday,” Alderman-at-Large Brandy Blanton said. “It’s a hardship on neighbors around that area. … I think a 10 o’clock stop time on Sunday is probably not appropriate in this demographic.”
Adam Gelfond, who is with Red Light Management and is the new festival director for Pilgrimage, said extending the hours for both nights to 10 would be preferred. He added that similar festivals across the country typically go to 11 p.m.
“In the sake of trying to create a world-class event in a really great city like Franklin,” he said, “it is beneficial for us from an organizer standpoint to be able to communicate and garner the attention of a world-class artist that can perform later. Because at 8:30 that time of year, you’re still into dusk, when you could offer them an opportunity to present their show in total darkness in all their glory, and we look to do that both Saturday and Sunday.”