Jun. 23—Amusement park rides and paintball will be among the new attractions at this year's Noble Street Festival, which will make a post-pandemic comeback over Independence Day weekend.
"We've really tried to go above and beyond this time," said Jackson Hodges, spokesman for Anniston city government and director of the downtown development agency Main Street Anniston.
The festival, timed to coincide with the Sunny King Criterium bicycle race, is typically one of the biggest events on Anniston's downtown calendar. The cycling event brings hundreds of racers from around the country to Anniston for a race on downtown streets. The festival adds music and vendors along Noble Street, adding to the crowds drawn downtown during race weekend.
Those events typically happen in spring. COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 event, and organizers pushed this year's event to July 3, in hopes the pandemic would be under control by race day.
Federal officials earlier this year set a goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the nation's population by July 4; in Alabama and Calhoun County only about one third of people have had their first dose of vaccine, according to state numbers, but new cases of COVID and deaths associated with the illness have slowed dramatically.
Hodges said admission to the festival will be free, and he said organizers have planned for the heat, with cooling stations with mist fans set up at locations downtown. In addition to live music (including an Allman Brothers cover band), the festival will include vendors and amusement park rides. Combat Park in Eastaboga will have a tank on display and imitation mini-tanks for kids to drive, Hodges said, and trailers in which people can play paintball.
"There really will be a lot to do compared to past years," Hodges said.
Making the event happen this year was more challenging, he said, because organizers didn't have their typical $25,000 grant from the state's tourism agency. Tourism grants were frozen during the pandemic, he said.
Hodges said the city is also bringing back its "fourth Friday" downtown events, beginning this Friday. This week's event will include a BMX stunt show, he said.
Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.