Luray’s Festival of Spring will be different in 2018

Page News and Courier

LURAY, Sept. 11 — It was almost scrapped, at least for one year.

Facing a number of logistical problems with the planning and location of the 2018 Festival of Spring, Luray Parks and Rec Director Pat O'Brien approached the Luray Council on Monday night to request that the event be put on the shelf for one year.

“I really think it needs to be put on hold for one year, and then come back bigger and better — rebrand it,” he said.

The first issue that arose was the planned construction at the Main Street bridge. The town's main downtown thoroughfare will be blocked off, with limited to no use of adjacent Ruffner Plaza, where children's activities have been concentrated in recent years at the festival. The bridge project effectively cuts in half, the usual space dedicated to the Festival of Spring, not to mention potential issues with detour routes around the construction.

The second issue presented itself when the staff of the Luray Downtown Initiative, which helps coordinate the Festival of Spring, told O'Brien that they have personal commitments next spring that will prevent them from being available.

“Three key players will not be on board,” O'Brien told the council.

The parks director also noted that some downtown business owners have complained about the festival cutting off access to their businesses, and that trying to squeeze the festival into half the space or changing locations could discourage some vendors.

“Changing the venue and taking it off Main Street… It will confuse some vendors, and they may not come back,” O'Brien said.

However, despite the many challenges it presents, members of the Luray Council wanted to keep the festival going uninterrupted.

“If we don't do this event, we're sending the wrong message,” said Councilman Jerry Schiro. “We'll lose momentum for the event, and it's such a huge event.”

Several council members agree with Schiro's sentiment, and the group voted unanimously, 6-0, to keep the Festival of Spring going in 2018.

After spending several minutes looking at O'Brien's “Plan B” for the festival, which involved a change of location for several portions, the council decided to let O'Brien take some additional time to work out proposed changes and come back to the them in a few weeks.

On Monday night, the parks director was simply looking for a decision on whether or not the festival would be held in 2018, as he has already begun to receive queries from potential vendors — and he received a definitive answer.

“I can make it happen,” O'Brien said. “It won't be the same, but we can make it happen.”

The potential date for the event, which is historically held on Mother's Day weekend, is likely to change in order to allow LDI staff an opportunity to contribute to the planning and coordination.

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