Ballantyne Festival, now a nonprofit, to return in October

Organizers for south Charlotte’s annual Ballantyne Festival are taking the necessary steps to ensure the event will be around for the foreseeable future, and have high hopes this year’s event will be bigger and better than ever.

The festival, which takes place on grounds at the Morrison Family YMCA, recently received nonprofit status and now has the support it needs to grow. With a board of directors working to expand and grow the currently one-day event, organizers hope the new status will help attract more sponsors and bring more opportunities for community support, whether through scholarships or helping other nonprofits.

“I think it makes sense for a single organization to take charge,” Allen Starrett, one of the nonprofit’s board of directors and a Ballantyne business leader, said. “We’re trying to do some great things … that will allow us, as (the festival) grows, to really set goals in the Ballantyne community.”

This year’s Ballantyne Festival will kick-off at 10 a.m. on Oct. 5, a Saturday, with the annual Chili Cook-Off and Candidate Meet and Greet, previously sponsored by the Ballantyne Breakfast Club advocacy group. Ray Eschert, leader of the group, is now a member of the Ballantyne Festival board. Funding for the festival is on a donation and sponsorship basis. Now a nonprofit, festival organizers will reimburse the YMCA for their costs.

The day will include youth activities and live entertainment from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a moon bounce, giant slide, corn hole, obstacle course, hot shot basketball and volleyball, kid fit, raffles and door prizes and will feature the Charlotte Hounds Major League Lacrosse team and a pumpkin patch to help kick-off the fall season. Food from local vendors such as JJ’s Red Hots and Another Broken Egg Café also will be available for purchase. In the evening, the YMCA will host a family movie event in one of the Mecklenburg Parks and Recreation fields they utilize, where they’ll serve popcorn and snacks.

This year’s festival also will feature an adult-friendly event in a neighboring parks and rec field. Seeking a way to keep adults interested in the day-long event, organizers have planned an evening concert, starting at 6 p.m., that will feature performing artist Brendan as the opening act and headliner Matt Stratford Band at 7:30 p.m. Birdsong Brewing Co. has committed to provide food and beer available for
purchase.

“Ray started with the chili cook-off and the YMCA has the festival, but we felt like it was time to start adding elements to the overall festival that would keep adults engaged through live music, most likely barbecue and beer for sale. We’re going to try and set it up like a beer garden,” Starrett said.

Starrett said the event will be a “can’t-miss” affair, and hopes this year’s additions will help the festival continue to grow in the future – possibly to a weekend event, rather than just one day.

“We are very enthusiastic about launching this new vision with its new parts,” he added.

For the chili cook-off and candidate meet and greet, Eschert said many candidates for Charlotte City Council District 7 and at-large, candidates for mayor and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education District 6 have already committed to being at the event – that is if they make it past the Sept. 10 primary. The meet and greet will give residents another chance to meet candidates before the general election Nov. 5.

Eschert also said members of south Charlotte’s fire department and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department have committed to participate in the chili cook-off, which will give public safety officers a chance to communicate with residents and share important information.

“It’s a family-friendly event all day,” Alexa Hawkins, an organizer with the Morrison Family YMCA, said. “I think it’s going to spark interest for a lot of people and will be of great interest for the surrounding neighborhoods and adults. It will allow every type of person to stay.”

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