Final Fridays

Downtown Mansfield Inc. is still hoping to stage Final Friday events this year. (Richland Source file photo)

MANSFIELD -- Jennifer Kime and her crew still hold out hopes for Season XII of Final Fridays to start on May 29.

"It's definitely possible," said Kime, chief executive officer of Downtown Mansfield Inc. "We'll just have to keep waiting to see."

Final Fridays, which began as a way to bring residents downtown on the final Friday of summer months, has turned into a celebration of the city over the past 11 years, Kime said.

"We're keeping in touch with the (15) musicians to keep them up to date on what is happening," Kime said. "We think it's best to give people hope that it will start on time."

There are two slots open for food trucks and the lineup of bands has not yet been released.

"We were going to release it, but then the world shut down," Kime said.

This year has given DMI financial difficulties after Mansfield City Council  removed a significant portion of DMI's funding. Kime said her organization has been funded by tax dollars via the city's tourism revenue for more than a decade.

On March 18, while approving its 2020 appropriations budget, City Council pulled back $100,000 in funds for Downtown Mansfield Inc. and Destination Mansfield-Richland County to be used for two new police cruisers.

Destination Mansfield-Richland County receives all occupancy tax from county hotels and splits half the revenue from Mansfield hotels with the city and DMI.

The revenue represents about 40 percent of Downtown Mansfield Inc.'s annual budget.

"Given that fact, that may impact our ability to do any of this -- Final Fridays and First Fridays," Kime said. "They want us to pay back the tax money received this year, too, but with hotels being shut down (now), that could take five months.

"Our goal is to do all the fun things this year like normal, but realistically, this has taken a significant part of our funding," Kime said.

The stay-at-home order has impacted the ability of businesses to advertise and this month there are no events to sponsor.

"We are having trouble with sponsors," Kime said, noting that because of the lull in spending across the entire country, advertisement dollars have dwindled.

Final Friday crowds have filled the Brickyard over the past few seasons. Kime said the turnout last year averaged about 5,000 people.

"We don't know what to expect for our audience," Kime said. "We hear some people who are ready to be out of their houses again and be together. But there are also those who don't want to be in big crowds for a while.

"Historically, those who come to our events tend to want to celebrate the summer together as a community."

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