If preparations for an event are any indication of the size and importance, Suwanee Day is in a class by itself.
New events like the spring Beer Festival, and the concert in August have drawn rave reviews, but almost everyone has a different tone of voice when they discuss Suwanee Day. It's something that residents and city employees give the impression that is a priority to experience, and then make a permanent addition to the entertainment calendar.
The outward city pride for most Suwanee residents is evident throughout the year, but when they talk about this arts and crafts festival, they speak almost as if describing a fun uncle. He's been around for decades, and you're not sure what he has in store this year, but we bet it'll be fun, as always.
"The pride level, that seems to me steps up," Public Works Director Scott Moretz said. "Our guys want it to be the best. And I think everybody wants it to be the best. Before I even worked for the city, I would invite people to come to this."
It's the appreciation that people like City Manager Marty Allen have for the volunteers that direct traffic or help with crowd control for hours. When Allen talked about those volunteers this week, he said he was in awe of the "huge commitment" they make every year.
But commitment is what it takes to make this the biggest and best event on the city's ever-expanding schedule each year, now up to 40 on the calendar. While Events Coordinator Amy Doherty is a one-person department, the number of people to put on Suwanee Day is easily around 1,000. And while last year there were crowds of 50,000, Moretz said he wouldn't be surprised if this year saw 70,000 people. Let's be honest, there are several thousand parents alone who want to introduce their kids to The Smithereens music, and explain how much better it is than whatever they're listening to today.
While Suwanee Day may be a staple among annual events around the county and region, it's also known around the Southeast. Because the city is a member of the Southeast Festivals and Events Association, Doherty said she's soon presenting at a seminar about how to excite your community about an event. And it was Suwanee Day that caused that to happen.
When the day's over, Doherty, who along with others, puts in about 80 hours of work in the five days leading up to the event, said she recovers with some Advil and chocolate.
"A successful Suwanee Day is one where the compliments far exceed the complaints, and vendors tell you they're looking forward to next year when they leave," she said. "Without vendors, you don't have a Suwanee Day."
Yet when your reputation causes other people to ask how to put on a successful event, you're usually doing something right.
"Hopefully by the end of the day it's their best day ever," Doherty said. "Until next year when we make it better."
Keith Farner covers Suwanee for the Daily Post. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.