Commission gives more updates on Strawberry Festival

Published 12:19 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2022

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By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

The Chilton County Commission meeting on April 12 offered more updates on the turnout at the Strawberry Festival in Thorsby on April 9.

Commissioner Joe Headley thanked the Chilton County Industrial Development Authority and Chamber of Commerce for the turnout for the festival during his commissioner report.

Commissioner Matthew Mims, the IDA representative for the Commission, gave the update.

“It was a great turnout, estimated between 8,000-10,000 people (came out), it was consistent all day,” Mims said. “Ninety plus percent of all goods vendors sold out of at least 90% of their products. They said it was unheard of for a first-time event.”

All food vendors sold out, except for Chubbfathers. Mims said that the Chubbfathers owner said he “noticed very closely leading up to the event the kind of marketing that was done through Facebook that Whitney (Barlow), and the IDA did. We knew then it would be serious, so we planned for a large event for roughly 10,000 people.”

Mims said four vendors who were not there this year have reached out to reserve a spot for next years festival.

The biggest complaint from the festival was the weather, and that affecting the strawberries growth. That led to lower amounts of strawberries available. There are 14 strawberry farmers in the county and most were there. Mims said they were all sold out of strawberries by 11:30 a.m.

However, the IDA has already taken those concerns into consideration and scheduled next year’s festival two weeks later in the month on April 22, 2023.

Commissioner Allen Williams requested an audit of the IDA during his commissioner report.

“I actually want to know about the money, so I’m going to offer a motion. I move that this Commission requires an independent audit of the IDA financials for years 2019, 2020, 2021 and provide a complete financial statement for the current fiscal year,” Williams said.

During the discussion about the motion, Commissioner Randell Kelley asked Williams if going back till 2019 was necessary, and Williams insisted it was.

Commission Chairman Jimmie Hardee said he has not requested an audit from the IDA in recent years, neither have others on the Commission. Commissioner Joseph Parnell added that the IDA has provided the Commission with financial statements every budget.

The motion was seconded by Commissioner Darrell Bone. No members of the Commission opposed the motion, and it was approved.

Williams also brought up the concerns of some people in the community about camper spot renters at Higgins Ferry and Minooka Park renting their long-term spaces out through Airbnb.

Parnell commented on the journey of making both Higgins Ferry and Minooka Park financial independent and “getting closer every year. I don’t want to take steps backwards.”

“I understand some people are frustrated with individuals making money off the county, but those individuals are also paying debt for the county when they are there,” Parnell said. “As long as they are keeping their grounds clean, I like having rent.”

Park Ranger Donald Giles came up to speak on the concerns as well and thought the way things were going now were good. He was also thanked by the Commission for all of the positive feedback that has come from visitors at the parks. The Commission thanked his wife Kathy Giles as well for her hard work planning events at the parks.

Hardee also made a motion that all campers staying overnight at the parks must check in with the park so the rangers know who is staying there at all times.

The motion was passed unanimously.

Also, during the meeting, the Commission:

  • Started a tradition of inviting a local pastor to every meeting to do a small devotion and say the opening prayer before the meeting starts. Tommy Williams from Clanton Church of God did it this meeting.
  • Dawson Reid Alexander was hired as a full-time corrections officer effective April 16, and Lee Ann Moates was reclassified as a jail shift supervisor effective April 2.
  • Walter S. Elbinger was hired as a truck driver effective March 23, and Richard Allen Ray was hired as a laborer effective April 4.