Since pedestrians are still walking around the festival area after Bele Chere closes, officers from the Asheville Police Department stand guard at the festival barricades, keeping the streets closed to traffic. By about 6:30, when pedestrian traffic has thinned enough, festival officials put out a call to APD officers and festival staff that vendor vehicles can enter the festival area, but general traffic won’t be allowed through downtown for several more hours.
Also at 6 p.m., City of Asheville Public Works crews begin collecting several hundred trash barrels and recycling containers, bagging the trash and recyclables at the curb for pickup by sanitation trucks. Meanwhile, Parks Maintenance staff begin taking down signs, moving information kiosks, and picking up barrels used at beverage tents. Later, city-owned Bele Chere gear will be transported to a storage building at the WNC Nature Center.
By 6:45, private companies contracted for Bele Chere are disconnecting extra power lines, packing up generators and hauling away some 80 portable toilets.
An hour later, the festival is almost down to nothing but the streets and materials left on the curb to be picked up by the tent rental company and Public Works crews. The “knuckle buster” truck used by the city’s brush collection crews circles downtown picking up concrete-filled buckets lent out by the city to weigh down displays, and the night is left to the process of cleaning sidewalks and streets.
At sunset, downtown Asheville is buzzing with the sounds of leaf blowers and street sweepers. Public Works crews blow debris from the sidewalk and middle of the street to the curb where it can be picked up by sweeper trucks operated by the city’s Stormwater Services Division. Despite the fact that street sweepers made rounds every night of the Bele Chere festival, it takes multiple trips to do a thorough job of sweeping away the festival’s remnants. In Pack Square and around Pritchard Park, the areas where food was served, the streets are given extra attention with a pressurized hose.
Crews and city officials also monitor and clean streets and parking lots adjacent to the festival, cleaning a perimeter outside the Bele Chere boundaries since crowds also impact those areas.
“We’re responsible for everything that happens during the festival. It’s our baby once it’s over,” said city sanitation official Henry Glaze. “We make sure everything, even outside the festival, is cleaned up.”
By midnight, once the sweepers have made their rounds and the crew chiefs are satisfied that all debris and dirt has been picked up, the city brings in a “flusher” truck, a vehicle that sprays pressurized water behind it and gives the streets one final rinse.
By morning, the Bele Chere staff still has bookkeeping to finalize, meetings to discuss how the festival went, and other details to put in place, but to the outside eye, Bele Chere is gone.
“The goal is that, once you come into downtown Asheville in the morning, it’s like Bele Chere never happened,” says festival Entertainment Director Cristin Corder-Lee.