“The City of Franklin has placed a special emphasis on developing wonderful places where community can happen. As evidenced by our festivals and programming, and the interest we draw from people around the nation and the world, Franklin is a special place where people want to be,” said Eric Stuckey, Franklin, Tennessee City Administrator.
Indeed, data show that Franklin’s residents value special events and cultural and art opportunities. Residents rate the City higher than the national benchmark on resident participation in city-sponsored events, special events, social events, and cultural, arts, and music activities, according to The National Community Survey (The NCS).
The NCS is the gold-standard in resident opinion surveys on community livability. Franklin has participated in The NCS for several years, helping guide the City’s strategic planning, budgeting, and evaluation process.
“Franklin builds a special sense of community through many festivals and enrichment opportunities. Leaders pay close attention to data to increase resident satisfaction,” said Damema Mann, Director of National Engagement for Polco/National Research Center (NRC).
These efforts led Franklin to win the Voice of the People (VOP) Awards for Excellence in Education and Enrichment. The VOP Awards are the only national award that honors local governments based on feedback from residents. The award is presented by Polco/National Research Center (NRC) and the International City & County Management Association (ICMA). This award acknowledges local governments with the highest ratings from The NCS and that take the best actions on behalf of their communities.
Franklin hosts numerous festivals, many in the City’s Historic Downtown.
Some of these festivals include Arbor Day, Main Street Festival, Kids Arts Festival, Celebration of the Nations, Wine Down Main Street, The Pilgrimage Festival, and Dickens of a Christmas, among others.
“These festivals provide an authentic visitor experience by combining the dynamic downtown, cultural diversity, attractive architecture and a strong commitment to historic preservation,” said Stuckey.
Besides festivals, Franklin offers numerous enrichment opportunities.
A performing arts center is located next to the main branch of the local library. The local community college offers dozens of enrichment programs for all ages. Plus, all can enjoy the beautiful 15 block historic district that offers true southern hospitality.
“Cultural opportunities are vitally important to the vitality of Franklin,” said Stuckey.
These festivals and enrichment programs are a part of Franklin’s intentional approach to meeting resident needs.
Franklin consistently uses The National Community Survey (The NCS) to gauge local government effectiveness. Indeed 10% of the City’s Strategic Plan is tied directly to questions asked in the NCS. The City uses a communication plan to proactively engage residents in its continuous improvement loop.
Feedback from The NCS and informal feedback from residents gave city leaders the evidence they needed to plan safer holiday celebrations during the pandemic.
“These new events will help our community remain safe and socially distanced but still enjoy the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season," said Mayor Dr. Ken Moore in the City of Franklin website.
During Halloween 2020, the City reimagined their annual fall Pumpkin Fest as a safer event.
Paint the Town Orange was a month-long celebration on Franklin’s Historic Main Street. During October, Franklin was aglow with shades of orange. Visitors could purchase an event t-shirt and facemask. Anyone who wore the commemorative clothing could participate in a variety of promotions. In addition, attendees could participate in an online costume contest and outdoor historical tours.
In addition to creatively adjusting fall celebrations, Franklin's leaders also reimagined their winter festivals.
Neighborhoods could request Santa Claus to visit on a sleigh escorted by the Fire Department. The Parks Department hosted a Christmas drive-thru at a park featuring lights, characters and more. Last, the City hosted a virtual tree lighting program to air on the City’s social channels and TV.
“This has been a very stressful time during 2020 and we’re looking for ways we can continue to unite our community and also ways that we can help our businesses,” said Moore about the event in a City of Franklin video.