This article was published in the September edition of The Fort Thomas Living
By Jessica Duke
Ten years ago, the Fort Thomas Renaissance Board had a dream: to create a festival that would both entertain residents and grant exposure to local business owners. Today, that reality is the tenth annual Merchants and Music Festival, highlighted by a performance by Kentucky-native and country music superstar John Michael Montgomery.
Ashli Slawter, festival Chairman, said, “This is Renaissance creating a platform to help promote the community and our businesses.”
Thousands of attendees are expected at the festival on Saturday, September 28, from 2-11pm at Tower Park. To better understand the vendors, Fort Thomas Living reached out to a cross-section of businesses that are planning to sponsor a booth and asked them each a series of questions.
State Farm agent Tracy Davis opened her doors in 2005 and began participating in the festival that same year. She sees the festival as a great way to meet potential new clients and connect with current clients. She said she is excited about the addition of a second stage this year and the “focus on creating an event that will draw our families within Fort Thomas plus a huge crowd of visitors”.
Davis gives away free temporary tattoos for kids although during her first year she ended up giving away many tattoos to the adults in the crowd as the evening got later and the kegs emptier.
Lori Valentine, owner of Fort Thomas Coffee, which just celebrated its first anniversary, attended the M&M Festival for the first time last year. Valentine recalls great weather but a cooler evening which led to long lines for coffee and hot chocolate. “Since we were new at the whole festival thing, we weren't sure what to expect, so we kept running out of coffee and people were drinking it as fast as we could go back to the shop and brew it. Amazingly, people were very friendly and patient, even waiting in long lines for a fresh cup!” Valentine says of her establishment and the festival, “The whole reason we started FTC is to deepen community in Fort Thomas, so being a part of M&M is one more way we hope to continue to help do that.”
Robert Lovell of Lovell’s Hardwood Flooring is located on S. Fort Thomas Ave and has been in business since 1995. He is most looking forward to Montgomery’s entertainment. “Being a country music fan, we are definitely looking forward to hearing John Michael Montgomery.” Additionally, he sees the M&M Festival as a way to “build more personal and business relationships with our community.”
Lovell both installs new hardwood flooring and restores and refinishes old floors. He says of the importance of the festival: “It means everything to us. We are a family owned and operated business that are also residents of Fort Thomas so the relationships that we are able to build here both personal and business are really key to our lives.”
Dr. Jeri Stull who has been practicing Orthodontics in Ft. Thomas since 1998 (originally with Dr. Rekow who has since retired), remarks that her practice has “greatly appreciated all of the support the community has given our practice [which has] allowed our office to grow […] We have made it an important part of our marketing budget to give back to the community in many ways.”
As part of that mission, she is the sponsor for Aly’An, an up-and-coming country duo from Kentucky that Dr. Stull and her husband have come to know personally and enjoy musically. “They are both extremely talented women and as sweet and down to earth as they are entertaining. Being from Kentucky, they will have an instant connection with the audience with their youthful energy and pure southern charm”.
Another stalwart of the Fort Thomas Community is the Campbell County YMCA. Dana Ensley, Executive Director, is excited for all of the performers and happy with the planning that went into this event, the YMCA’s second. “The planners really take a lot of time to make sure the event is worthwhile to the merchants in the community. We really get a wonderful opportunity to highlight our business and service to all that visit the event.”
The YMCA plans to host a photo booth at this year’s festival and hopes to see concertgoers and their families stop in for a photo opportunity. They will also have giveaways and membership opportunities. “The community has always been a great support of the Y. We are here because of the community and for the community. It’s a two way street and it’s our honor and pleasure to serve the families of Fort Thomas.”
The M&M Festival looks to be another great time had by all and, per our Merchants, a great opportunity to connect with the true customer: the Ft. Thomas residents.