After six months of planning, Thomson's first outdoor festival in close to 10 years will finally become a reality Saturday.
The inaugural Festival Off Main Street is set to kick off at 10 a.m. on Railroad Street in downtown Thomson with a vast assortment of local arts and crafts dealers, an antique mall, fresh food and live music.
"That we're going to have such a wide range of things, that's one of the things we're so excited about,' said Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce President Mary Anne Coussons. "I think this event will be something that will impact the general public, and it's not just going to hit a small group of people.'
Things will get kicked off at 9 a.m. Sunday morning with the Depot Dash, a 5k run/walk. After the race ends, so begins the festival. Live music will be played almost all day, complimenting the 14 antique dealers from all over the state of Georgia, 13 local art dealers, and 43 crafts vendors.
Mrs. Coussons was quick to point out that the crafts vendors all won't specialize in the same thing - some will be selling jewelry, others will have homemade stationary, and one vendor will even be providing pottery.
"We've got a lot of really good local folks that are very talented, so we're excited about it,' said Chamber Director Carolyn Gilbert. "We've been wanting for a long time to showcase them.'
Art dealers will be set up in the Depot, and they will be showcasing both original art and photography.
There will also be a children's area where parents can leave their kids while they grab some food or peruse the crafts. Santa Claus will be there, as will a magician and a clown.
Before the big day on Saturday, a Business After Hours will take place Friday night in downtown Thomson starting at 5 p.m. Local businesses will be staying open later than usual to accommodate the holiday crowds. Children from McDuffie County elementary schools will be singing Christmas carols, and fresh food will be served by local eateries.
The weekend then wraps up Sunday with the Thomson Christmas Parade, which will kick off around 3 p.m. at Thomson Plaza.
Because the festival itself is an inaugural event, Chamber Tourism Director Gerald Baygents said he thought it would be a good way to promote the county and also be a good learning experience for future festivals.
"We'll find out what we did good and what we did bad,' he said. "Hopefully it'll be something that we're really proud of. As a tourism board, we took on this particular project because we wanted to attract people to our downtown area.'
He also suggested that while local festivals often only attract local crowds, he did think that some out-of-town folks will show up Saturday to check out some of the antiques.
"People who like antiques will come,' he said. "And hopefully that'll bring them in, and they'll get to see some things that they normally didn't think we had here.'
Most local officials agreed that the timing of the festival couldn't have been better, given the recent interest in revitalizing downtown Thomson into a bustling commercial district once again.
"This event will continue to bring attention to our downtown,' said Mrs. Coussons. "We would like nothing better than to have our downtown revitalized to where it's an active, functioning place again. ... This is a good start.'
Christmas off Main Street Calendar
Friday, Dec. 5
• Christmas tree lighting
• Business After Hours
• Children's choirs
Saturday, Dec. 6
• 9 a.m. - Depot Dash 5K run
• 10 a.m.-6 p.m. - Festival off Main Street. Crafters, food, antique market, entertainment and other activities.
Sunday, Dec. 7
• 3 p.m. - Annual Christmas Parade. Grand Marshal will be Thomson High School Football Coach Luther Welsh.