The year was 2002. A committee consisting of about 40 volunteers were meeting at City Hall to plan for the 50th anniversary celebration of Corbin’s Nibroc Festival.
Everybody was excited, wanting the festival to be the best ever. The committee wanted the festival for the first time, to be placed on Main Street.
For years the planning committee had been told that the state would not allow the festival to be held on Main Street because it is a major highway.
Prior to attending the meeting in 2002 I called the state highway department and asked why we could not hold the festival on Main Street. The man in charge told me, “You can. I don’t know why Corbin hasn’t been holding it there for years, others do.”
I went armed to the meeting and when the subject was brought up the same answer was given, “ We can’t hold it there”, I informed the group that I had just spoken to the state highway department and they gave us the green light.
That year the committee produced one of the best Nibroc Festivals ever. It continued to grow in the Main Street location.
The director, Bruce Carpenter worked tirelessly and many people volunteered to help. There were free concerts with top name artists. The local participation was great. Church choirs, individuals and local bands performed. It had turned in to one of the biggest and best festivals in Kentucky.
The success wasn’t without its misfortunes. A couple of irresponsible vendors spilled grease on buildings and in the street. Placement of some vendors blocked the front of some downtown businesses. Traffic flow was a mess. But every problem that happened then can be easily corrected if that 2002 spirit is still around.
Because of problems the city voted to take the festival off Main Street. If not for the efforts of a few individuals Nibroc would have died. Fortunately, it continued, but it has been only a shell of what it was when it was on Main Street. Monday night, by a vote of 3-2, the Corbin city commission voted to bring Nibroc back to Main Street. This is good, but there is a big challenge ahead to restore it to its former excellence.
Many of the vendors have located elsewhere. It will be difficult to get them back. The enthusiasm of the many volunteers we had will have to be restored. Sponsors for the concerts will have to come back. It will take a huge effort, and maybe several years, to make it the best in Kentucky again.
But hats off to the progressive, forward thinking members of the city commission who know the value of having a festival the town can be proud of, and wanting it to be the best.
Downtown business people, or anyone who has complaints or suggestions, should attend a planning meeting. As I told one merchant 15 years ago, “you have a chance to make lemonade out of what you consider a lemon.” That person did and is now on board for the Main Street location.
To be successful, negative attitudes need to turn positive and those with suggestions need to be heard. Working together we will make lemonade.