Cities work to bring crowds downtown

Jessica, left, Mason and Travis Dickson enjoy ice cream and browse storefronts Friday during Nights on Broadway in Lenoir City.

Lenoir City and Loudon are working to draw residents out of their homes and into downtown areas.

In Lenoir City, Nights on Broadway and Cars and Coffee are two regularly occurring events.

Nights on Broadway got a late start in June due to coronavirus concerns but will continue every third Friday through October, Mary Bright, Historic Downtown Lenoir City Merchants Association president, said. The event offers live music, food trucks and shopping.

“What I like about Nights on Broadway is that it’s small enough where you can take your time and go through everything, and you’re not rushed like you would be in a really big place,” Angie Gordy, Honey Blossom Boutique owner, said.

Bright said June’s vendor and crowd count were still good despite COVID-19 concerns, but July’s numbers were down. She suspects the heat may be the biggest reason.

Cars and Coffee follows 9 a.m.-noon the next day with donuts, coffee and cars on Depot Street.

“We have had so many people come in the shop that have said, ‘We are so glad you have something going on. We are so ready to be out into the community again. We are excited there is an event we can go to and get out of our house now,’ and it’s outside, so obviously that gives them a little more, I guess, safety against the virus,” Bright said. “… We want people to get out and enjoy something and be safe at the same time.”

Mark Harrell, Loudon Parks and Recreation Department director, has been working on two projects to bring people together safely. Food Truck Fridays started July 7 at Riverside Park, and the Smoky Valley Riders Cruise-In started Friday.

Due to social-distancing guidelines, the cruise-in hasn’t been able to happen this year, Harrell said. The cruise-in will now try to meet once a month as long as it’s safe and will be reassessed as needed.

“I don’t know how many will show up,” he said. “We’ve not had a big response. I’ve had a lot of people say they want to do it, but then you actually have to get the people together to do it.”

Food Truck Friday was a success, Harrell said. Over the span of two hours, the park saw 400 people attend. Harrell is only letting 50 people in the gate at a time, which has helped other downtown businesses. Instead of going home or waiting in line, people take their business next door.

“If nothing else, Rachel (Harrell, Loudon County Visitors Bureau executive director) and I came to the last one and went to the Carmichael Inn to eat, because it was air conditioned, and then came back over here for ice cream for dessert,” Harrell said. “So we’re just here to support the other downtown merchants as well. We want to be good neighbors.”