Boom Days: ‘Room to grow’

Officials estimate that this year’s Boom Days Heritage Festival had “the biggest impact” on DeKalb County’s local economy in recent history.

There were more than 40 different food and arts and crafts vendors lining downtown Fort Payne, as well as more than 30 musical acts at each of the seven individual stages.

DeKalb County Tourism Association President John Dersham estimated roughly 7,500 to 10,000 people in attendance throughout the course of the event.

He said there was a more than 3,500 people at the festival’s Main Stage on Saturday beginning with Jacob Stiefel at 4 p.m. and continuing with The Kentucky HeadHunters and the Atlanta Rhythm Section.

“The biggest economic revenue that comes from stuff like that is the close to 25 percent, or 20-25 percent, of the entire crowd that was from out of town,” Dersham said. “Now, that doesn’t mean that they all got a hotel room, but we tracked [hotels] on an almost daily basis.

“They weren’t completely filled up specifically because of the Boom Days weekend, but they had a better than typical weekend.”

The festival was started by the city of Fort Payne in 2006. It always takes place on the third Saturday in September. The festival celebrates the Fort Payne Boom, which took place in 1889. The boom was created by an influx of New England investors seeking riches from coal and iron deposits in the area.

Dersham said this has been the ninth Boom Days that he’s been to, and this was the largest by far.

“It was definitely the biggest one as far as total attendance,” Dersham said. “That includes all three of the days including Thursday, and Friday and Saturday.

“But, it’s still got room to grow. The streets weren’t jam-packed the whole time, and as long as you’ve got room to move around, then there’s room for us to grow.”

Dersham applauded Chairman Maurey Roberts and Boom Days executive assistant Victoria Leputa for their contributions to Boom Days.

This was the first Boom Days Roberts has planned. Roberts, who serves as the city’s events coordinator, was assigned the position in January 2016. Leputa was hired in March to help with the day-to-day operations of both the DeKalb Theatre and Boom Days.

Dersham said Roberts and Leputa had roughly eight months to pull off the festival.

“Maurey and Victoria, along with the Boom Days Committee, did a fantastic job,” Dersham said. “They started almost four months late because there was a transition period between the old committee and the new one. There was some time lost… but considering the slow start they did a great job, especially since was Maurey’s first year for doing this — he and Victoria really are all stars. The city council really pitched in a lot, and the city really got behind it. I really commend the city of Fort Payne for being conducive to making this event that much better.“

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