Main Street in Clayton will turn into a pedestrian walkway during the annual Harvest Festival.
CLAYTON -- The town’s annual Harvest & Music festival lasts for five days but to organizers, it’s a culmination of nearly a year’s worth of hard work and strategic planning.
With barely enough time to enjoy the success of the previous year, festival co-chairs James Lipscomb and Diane Bean hit the ground running to begin organizing an event that will run from Wednesday through Sunday all over downtown Clayton.
Lipscomb is in his third year as event chairman after assisting HomeTowne Realty partner Barry Woodard in running the event from 1990 to 2009. His familiarity with planning the festival, the Chamber of Commerce’s largest fundraiser, from start to finish has helped him stay calm amid the chaos of opening day.
“I feel pretty good that we have everything covered so far,” said Lipscomb. “I’ve done this for so long I know what to look for.”
Leading up to the event, he is needed everywhere. From making sure the stage at Town Square is properly assembled and equipped for sound, ensuring the town’s Public Works department has cleared lots in preparation for the arrival of carnival rides or setting up cones and barricades along Main Street.
Lipscomb also oversees and coordinates all Harvest Festival advertising in local newspapers, highway billboards and social media. He does all this while maintaining a full-time job as a partner at HomeTowne Realty.
“My work hours double to triple during this time,” Lipscomb said. “I still have to do everything at my normal business. My day just gets longer.”
With the help of a small team of volunteers, including committee chairs Mary Beth Roberti from the Chamber of Commerce, Raquel Williams of DPM Studios and Jamie Coats of Powhatan Original Free Will Baptist Church, the Harvest & Music festival promises to be a family-friendly event offering dozens of musical acts, carnival rides, vendor fair and gospel sing.
“It’s impossible for any one or two people to stay on top of everything,” noted Lipscomb. “We have different people responsible for different segments and it’s worked out wonderfully. A good part of my day is making sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed.”
Training a newbie
Bean, owner of CruiseOne, has operated a booth at the vendor fair since 2004. As co-chair, she has been attending to the smallest of details that visitors may never even notice. From deciding on placement of concession vendors, ordering portable restrooms and learning where electrical outlets are in various places along Main Street, she’s getting quite the hands-on experience.
“For seven years I had never been outside my booth,” Bean said. “I’m now looking at this with very different eyes and trying to get a good balance of all the things that are going to happen. I’m really excited to see how it’s all going to fall into place.”
For Lipscomb and Bean, their busiest days will begin two days prior to Harvest Festival’s Sept. 12 opening when they overseethe set up of carnival rides at Horne Square. From then, it will be running around to various locations each day making sure everything is operating smoothly until the very last event on Sunday evening.
“I’ve cleared my whole schedule for this,” said Bean. “When I give my commitment, I give 100 percent.”
Once this year’s festival wraps up, Lipscomb plans to step aside and take more of a behind-the-scenes approach. Co-chair Bean is using this time to shadow him and learn the ropes for next year.
“I’ll still be involved in other aspects,” said Lipscomb. “I really like the logistics side of it and how that all works. I’ve been doing it so for long it’s all second nature for me. It’s the everyday programming that I’ll step back from. Diane’s stepped up and has done a wonderful job. She shares the same passion with me about putting on the best possible festival.”
“For James, he knows like clockwork what needs to be done,” Bean said. “I’m the new kid and learning where everything goes.”
They are also thinking ahead with new ideas for next year. Both say they would like to incorporate a Latino festival into the event. A similar idea was considered this year but fell through after lacking volunteers to lead a committee.
For now, Lipscomb and Bean are dedicated to providing an exciting event and look forward to seeing the community’s reaction.
“I love to observe people and how they experience the festival,” said Lipscomb. “It’s rewarding to see families and kids having a good time.”