Celebrate Cullman returns bigger than ever


Downtown Cullman was swarming Friday night with residents and tourists enjoying the return of Celebrate Cullman. The kids enjoyed free rides. / W.C. Mann

CULLMAN – On Friday evening, Celebrate Cullman returned to the downtown retail district after a brief pause.  Begun as a way to attract shoppers back downtown after the 2011 tornadoes, the event became a means of drawing in competitors and spectators from the McKenzie ASA Classic Archery Tournament at St. Bernard; when that event moved, the celebration took a break.  But the tournament returned this year, with a guarantee of two additional years, and the Downtown Merchants’ Association and Warehouse District Merchants’ Association revived Celebrate Cullman.

Downtown Merchant’s Association event coordinator Ron Pierce explained, “It came out of the tornado back in 2011, and we tied in with the ASA national invitational archery tournament; and we hope that all those people will come downtown, and all the locals will come downtown; because this is a tourism event, and it’s also for locals, and everything’s free: free rides, free music everywhere.  There are six bands in town; there are singer-songwriters walking around.”

With an expanded special events district that now reaches down First Avenue Northeast to include the seven blocks between the Busy Bee Café and the Cullman Police Department, the celebration didn’t just return, it grew and expanded into a multi-venue street fair.

Michael Sapp, one of Celebrate Cullman’s coordinators, shared, “We’ve got some great carnival rides; we’ve got rides all the way from Depot Park down to Busy Bee.  We’ve got food vendors . . . we’ve just got a whole lot of stuff going on right now!

“We’ve got the Overtones playing; down the way, we’ve got the Escalators playing.  County Wyde’s playing.  The Cloggers are clogging.  Moe’s is packed, Busy Bee is packed, the restaurants are packed.  We’ve got a lot of people here; it’s looking great!”

This reporter stopped in Moe’s for a bite, and asked a server if the evening’s festivities were affecting business.  She responded, “It’s been really busy!  Usually on a Friday, we start getting a lot of people coming in around seven, but today they started coming in at five, and it’s just been really busy.”

Many businesses in the district stayed open into the evening, some even setting up sale tables on the sidewalks outside their doors. 

Though Jennifer’s Treasures Boutique didn’t move outside, the store still enjoyed brisk business during the event.  Owner Jeff Bennett said, “We knew there’d be a lot of people involved, so it’s good for business.  It’s been good; there’s been a lot of people in and out, all afternoon.  It’s been real good.”

Asked if the extra business was worth the extra effort, Bennett replied, “Oh, absolutely, yes!”

Even a few businesses with no inventory in their showrooms got into the spirit of Celebrate Cullman.  At Waldrop Real Estate, the staff threw open the doors and set up a popcorn cart inside, giving away free bags to passersby.

Between bags, realtor Terri McGriff Waldrop took a moment to share, “We just love our community.  We love to see that there’s so much activity and people together, and just wanted to be a part of it.  We can’t really sell a house; we don’t have something we can put outside.  But we just want to give popcorn out and say, ‘Hey, we’re here, and we love our community.’  We just want to be involved.”

Some business owners planned to gauge the foot traffic to see how long they wanted to stay open, but several restaurants were set to serve well into the night, in many cases with live entertainment inside.

“I love Cullman,” concluded Pierce.  “The whole idea behind a tourism event is to bring people through your downtown, and they come back.  That’s what it’s all about.”

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