Powder Springs event planner pushes through 2020 and sets sights on 2021 SpringsFest
By Cory Sekine-Pettite
If there were a “word of the year” for business owners whose livelihoods outlasted 2020, it would be pivot. Think: moving to an online-only sales model; completing deals/contracts with PDFs instead of handshakes; or keeping your store open but limiting customers to appointment-only visits. Virtually every industry — every employer — had to alter their business models to continue operating or to reach new clientele. Of course, if your business depends on the willingness of people to gather in large numbers — restaurants and movie theaters, for example — then the past year also may have been as much about praying for your business to survive as it was about pivoting. Now imagine you’re an event planner.
This was the tough reality facing Petergaye Rhodes, owner of Ricketts Rhodes Events in Powder Springs, whose company was just one year old when the pandemic forced a nationwide halt to all public gatherings. Just as her company was on the rise, having successfully organized the first-ever Powder Springs New Year’s Eve Gala and re-creating that city’s annual SpringsFest into an Independence Day celebration (more on this event below), COVID-19 stopped Rhodes in her tracks. “As you can imagine, 2020 was a wash,” Rhodes said. So she thought, “we’ll pivot just like everyone else.”
Rhodes told herself to just roll with the punches because this is life; it is unpredictable. She began hosting online events, such as virtual mixers for business professionals, all the while holding out hope that at least one of her in-person events still would happen last year. But one by one, she had to cancel everything, from SpringsFest in the summer to a fall singles retreat to the 2021 New Year’s Eve Gala. “So [COVID-19] significantly impacted my business,” Rhodes said. “But I’m thankful that we made it through, and that we still have the opportunity to get back to in-person events. The virtual events were cool, but nothing beats touching and feeling and chatting and laughing and being in person and connecting.”
Personal connections are crucial to a business like Ricketts Rhodes Events — from finding clients to making sure event attendees are happy and entertained. In fact, it was her connections at city hall as a business owner and community organizer that thrust Rhodes into event management. She used to own a consignment shop in Powder Springs, and it was during this time that, in 2015, she and three other female business owners formed the Powder Springs Business Group (PSBG) to fill a need for an organization that could share employers’ concerns and ideas directly with the city. The group quickly gained local prominence and today includes nine board members and more than 70 members.
In 2017, the City of Powder Springs asked PSBG to take over managing its annual Business Expo event. PSBG decided to relocate the event to the town square, include residents, have kids activities and entertainment, and make it a fun day for the community. Thus, the Powder Springs Festival, now SpringsFest, was born. In 2017 and 2018, SpringsFest was held in the springtime. In 2019, Henry Lust (PSBG board member and Powder Springs City Council member) asked if PSBG would consider managing the city’s July 4 celebration, citing budget concerns. The PSBG board agreed and SpringsFest was moved to July 4. “Since I successfully led the organization of the two previous SpringsFest events, and organized the PSBG monthly mixers and other events, I was asked to manage the July 4 event as well,” Rhodes said. Additionally, a PSBG board member suggested she start a business to manage events, and that’s when Ricketts Rhodes Events was created.
SpringsFest is back for 2021!
For the 2021 SpringsFest, Rhodes said this is the first event that her company felt comfortable to execute safely since the pandemic began. The City of Powder Springs agreed. From the city’s perspective, Lust said it was extremely important to bring back. He said residents need events that are community oriented. “I know that our citizens are anxious to have an event they can enjoy,” he said.
This festival celebrates our nation’s independence and welcomes residents from Powder Springs, Austell, Hiram, and other surrounding cities to Thurman Springs Park in Powder Springs. You may recall that this park and special event space opened just last year, but the city could not hold the planned opening celebration. However, folks now can safely gather in this gem of a public space in downtown Powder Springs. The $3.7-million redevelopment is part of a larger plan to bring new business to the downtown area. The green space should attract new development and new shops, the city says. “As a child growing up in the Powder Springs community, I would have loved to have had a park like this to go to with my family and friends. It will be a popular place to relax and enjoy the downtown district for many years to come,” Powder Springs Parks Director Jeff Crowder told Cobb In Focus last year.
So if you’ve yet to experience the park, SpringsFest would be the perfect opportunity. Starting at noon on the 4th, families can enjoy live music, games, face painting, crafts from local artisans, food trucks, a new beer and wine garden, and much more. Plus, admission is free. Of course, there will be fireworks, so get there early and enjoy the food and entertainment before staking out a prime spot to view the overhead show. And importantly, everyone can feel safe being there.
“I think people have been a little bit nervous about, you know, the state of affairs of things. They’ve been reassured, however, to some extent by the fact that we now have the vaccine,” Rhodes said. “So as an organization, we put measures in place to ensure the safety of the public; we’re adding extra hand sanitizer machines and we will be spacing vendors more than we’ve done in the past.
“We worked closely with the Powder Springs Police Department, with Public Safety, to ensure the community’s safety,” she continued. “But I think the difference this year is that we’ve taken on the personal efforts of ensuring that we’re thinking from every perspective how safe this can be, because we also have our families coming there, too.”
Rhodes said that her company and the city went into planning for SpringsFest wanting the audience to walk away feeling like this festival is the best annual event in Powder Springs. “Our focus has always been about the experience while they’re there — the kids having fun, the parents being able to relax, having live entertainment that engages everyone, and just thinking about how we can engage the community.”
People are feeling more comfortable and it’s possible to have this event and to have a safe event, she said, after attending another recent outdoor festival here in Cobb County. “People have been anxious, waiting, just to get out and feel even a semblance of what we knew was normal, you know, just to feel that again and to connect — reconnect — with their neighbors.”
This is an important event for businesses as well, Rhodes added. “The economy has suffered. …So it was important to us to host this event, to bring all the small businesses and the large businesses so that we can really recharge the economy and get things going and get businesses going again,” she said.
Speaking of vendors, events like SpringsFest can be crucial for supporting small businesses, Rhodes said, because for a small fee, a business can come to the event and they’re able to promote their products to a large audience. The vendor fees range from $100 to $400, depending on the business type and the location they choose. To get more information and to submit a vendor application, visit springsfest4th.com/vendor-application.
Local businesses also are encouraged to reach out to Rhodes about sponsorship opportunities. As a sponsor, your brand will be advertised via social media, online, in print, and on radio (depending on the package). Your branding will get in front of local residents in Powder Springs, Austell, Hiram, Mableton, Smyrna, and other communities. For Diamond Level Sponsors and above, there’s a VIP Garden that includes passes to an exclusive area at the front of the Hardy Family Amphitheater stage, with complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres. A unique benefit of all packages is the ongoing advertising, even after the event date. Visit rickettsrhodes.com, or call 404.954.2576, for more information.
Part of the proceeds from the event benefits Powder Springs Youth Foundation. Raffle proceeds benefit Kiwanis Club of Greater South Cobb and Powder Springs Community Task Force. Rhodes would like to thank the following sponsors, as well as the City of Powder Springs and the PSBG: Greystone Power; Croy Engineering; Norfolk Southern; Zaxby’s; Paran Homes; United Community Bank; Gregory, Doyle, Calhoun & Rogers – Attorneys; and Farmers Insurance – Spencer Hardy Agency.
Obviously, there’s a great deal more to celebrate this summer than just our nation’s independence. So consider attending what is sure to be a great time in Powder Springs this July 4th. Learn more about SpringsFest at springsfest4th.com.
Event: City of Powder Springs July 4 celebration – SpringsFest!
Date: Sunday, July 4, 2021
Time: noon – 10 p.m.
Location: Thurman Springs Park – Home of the Hardy Family Amphitheater, 4485 Pineview Drive, Powder Springs