Finding an Asheville festival is easy. Managing the logistics takes lots of coordination

The Mountain Sports Festival features cyclocross races 5-9 p.m. Friday, May 26. For a list of Mountain Sports Festival events visit

The Mountain Sports Festival features cyclocross races 5-9 p.m. Friday, May 26. For a list of Mountain Sports Festival events visit


City manages Asheville’s
multiple special events ‘holistically’


Asheville’s festival season begins with two large events in town this Memorial Day weekend: Beer City Festival May 27 in Pack Square Park and the Mountain Sports Festival May 26-28 in Carrier Park.

Look for lots of activity in these two signature parks this weekend!


Did you ever stop to think about the City services required when there’s a festival on City property? That’s Jon Fillman’s job. As one of the City’s Economic Development Specialists with the Community & Economic Development Department, he is the go-to person for overseeing scheduling and all the behind-the-scene logistics events require for use of outdoor public space, from street closings to trash pickup — and lots more.


“It’s a lot of detail,” Fillman says. “I love doing it.”


Jon Fillman serves as a conductor for an orchestra of outdoor special event permit applications. The City receives around 200 event applications per year.


“It’s a very active schedule,” he said, “but it’s managed holistically.”


That is to say a decision on whether to grant a special event permit must be considered with input across multiple internal departments and external regulatory agencies, as well as within the context of what else is going on that day, week and even the month. Jon heads up the City’s Event Review Team, allowing City departments and outside agencies affected to weigh in on policy compliance and their capacity to handle the volume posed by mostly weekend requests.


“Public safety is our team’s No. 1 priority,” he said. “Without proper planning, and appropriate resources in place, safety can become a concern.”


Too many street closings downtown can impede emergency response times, for example.


The City also has to consider what’s going on at the U.S. Cellular Center on any given weekend. High school graduations are just around the corner.

Because of Asheville’s popularity, requests have grown in the past 10 years, so there are fewer weekends available for new events. As part of the scheduling process, maintenance closures are built in and this can mean rest time for the grass on the Roger McGuire Green in Pack Square Park.


Importance of organizational partnerships


After the final Bele Chere in 2013, the City in 2014 transitioned from event sponsorships of signature events such as Downtown After 5, to providing in-kind services through organizational partnerships.


The City currently maintains strategic event partnership agreements with the following organizations through 2019:


  • Asheville Downtown Association (ADA), which produces Downtown After 5 and programming in Pritchard Park such as Hoop Jam and the Drum Circle;
  • Asheville Area Arts Council, which has acquired The Big Crafty;
  • Community Betterment Foundation for the Folk Heritage Committee, which produces Shindig on the Green;
  • LEAF Community Arts, producer of LEAF Downtown AVL;
  • ASAP for tailgate markets;
  • Mountain Sports Festival;
  • RiverLink (RiverMusic and RiverFest, which have subsequently moved to the Salvage Station).


How do the partnerships work? The City provides in-kind services for events proposed by its partners that help the City achieve its goals, such as police security, street closures and trash pickup. In-kind support is offered at a specified, agreed maximum amount per year.


The Fourth of July celebration downtown, is handled a bit differently in that it is an event produced at the behest of the City and therefore is managed under a separate and independent event production agreement with the Asheville Downtown Association to continue this as a free, community celebration. “In this case the City has contracted with the ADA to produce July Fourth for the City,” Fillman said. “They in turn secured Ingles as the title sponsor to help financially support the event while providing strong visibility and promotional value to Ingles.”


New this year is the plan to bring The Big Crafty to Pack Square Park on July 16. Formerly an independent crafters’ market, the Asheville Area Arts Council has acquired The Big Crafty. There will be added components to the event, said Fillman, such as artist demonstrations and arts-business seminars.


Want more information?



Festivals at a glance


Some of the larger events permitted by the City’s Community & Economic Development Department:


Downtown After 5, first Friday of the month from May through September

Montford Arts & Music Fest, May 20

River Arts District Studio Stroll, May 20-21 and Nov. 11-12

Beer City Festival, May 27

Mountain Sports Festival, May 26-28

Asheville Half Marathon and 5K, June 3

Expand Fest, a new event on the South Slope, June 10

Shindig on the Green, starts July 1

Downtown Festival of the Arts (new juried art market), July 1-2

The Big Crafty, July 16

Asheville Yoga Festival, July 28-30

Asheville Wine and Food Festival, moving to Pack Square Park, Aug. 18-19

Asheville Running Experience, Sept. 23-24 (on South Slope)



Blue Ridge Pride