-By Julia Steege-Reimann-
When Franklin, Tennessee’s typical holiday celebrations were canceled due to COVID-19, City leaders decided not to wallow. Resident survey data told them that community connectivity matters to Franklin’s residents, perhaps even more so than before. With a little creativity, they believed that they could dream up safer celebrations that still capture the spirit of the season.
“Cultural opportunities are vitally important to the vitality of Franklin,” said Eric Stuckey, City Administrator for Franklin, Tennessee. “Of course, the great challenge of our times is the COVID-19 pandemic, and our ability to foster in-person events is challenged like never before."
Indeed, the data shows that Franklin’s residents value special events. Residents rate the City higher than the national benchmark on resident participation in city-sponsored events, special events, and social events 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. NCS results help guide the City’s strategic planning, budgeting, and evaluation process.
Informal feedback shows City leaders that observing holidays is important to residents, even during the pandemic. This feedback, along with the NCS survey results that highlight resident desire for city-sponsored events, has given city leaders the evidence they need to begin planning safer holiday celebrations.
“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.
Neighborhoods can request for Santa Claus to visit on a sleigh escorted by the Fire Department. So far, fifty neighborhoods have signed up.
The Parks Department will host a Christmas drive-thru at a park. The experience will feature lights, characters and more.
Last, The City will host a virtual tree lighting program to air on the City’s social channels and TV. After the program, residents will be able to walk by the display throughout the season.
In addition to creatively adjusting Winter celebrations, Franklin's leaders also reimagined their annual fall Pumpkin Fest as a safer event.
Paint the Town Orange is a month-long celebration on Franklin’s Historic Main Street. During October, Franklin is aglow with shades of orange. Visitors can purchase an event t-shirt and facemask. Anyone who wears the commemorative clothing can participate in a variety of promotions. In addition, attendees can participate in an online costume contest and outdoor historical tours.
“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.
The events and promotions support Franklin's small business community.
“Government must be at its best when times are worst,” said Stuckey. Hosting safer holiday celebrations is just one way Franklin’s leaders are keeping the community united and uplifted during these difficult times.
A version of this article was originally published on The Atlas.
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