Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment

Opticare Vision/Express Mobile Transport

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fort Thomas Music and Merchants Festival: The Merchants Buy In

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. 


  1. All FTM advertisers were interviewed for this article. Easier access to interviews plus they support FTM, so we reciprocate. Go see them at M&M.

  2. Makes sense. I'm happy to support the businesses that make Fort Thomas Matters possible. They make you guys go, so they should get the publicity in articles like this.

  3. Isn't that in part what they pay for?

  4. Yes, in part it is what they pay for. Our advertisers will always get first crack to be in a news story when all else is equal.

    There's no better way to advertise than to be in the FTM family and we go out of our way to support them. When there are newsworthy items involving other businesses we will cover them, but in this sense there are zero credibility issues with including only FTM advertisers vs non-advertisers.

    This is how we continue to grow and we just can't do it for free. If you'd like to join our stable of advertisers, we'd love to have you. No one will work harder for you.

  5. Freeloaders obviously posting wanting free advertising. Thanks for your hard work for us, guys.

  6. The difference between news and feature stories is big. This isn't a news story. It's a feature. We don't have to talk to a cross section of non-advertisers. Why would we? Our advertisers offer a breadth of different companies, big and small. We are not presenting the information that only FTM advertisers will be there.

    I'm sorry, but I won't debate "anonymous." Put your name on the post and we can converse as much as you want. I post almost every comment, but I won't post personally disparaging remarks.

  7. When I moved here I only used Ft. Thomas Matters advertisers because I didn't know any better. Best decision ever. I've personally used: Birkley, Lighthouse Landscape, Frances, Mio's when it was here, Cobblestone, Anita's, Designer Ally, Provident Travel and Tracy Davis writes my insurance.

    I've had nothing but good luck with all of them.

  8. I would like to ask the Merchants and Music organizers to remember that not everyone listens to and likes new country music. Yes, it is great the headliner is from KY. We have attended in the past and will in the future if the organizers can do some rotating of the styles of music they offer. Not too driven to attend the event this year.

  9. True, there are country acts but they also have Sleeping Dogs, Carter New, HHS Sinfonia and I think Lyndsey Highlander are all non-country acts.

    Plus there will be ALOT going on. Between all the merchants, food, drinks, and entertainment, there will be a lot to do.

    Come have a beer with us.