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Festivals have impact on local economy

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The annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival attracted more than 6,000 visitors to Athens County this weekend, significantly boosting the economy in one of the poorest economic regions in Ohio and making this the biggest festival since it was founded 16 years ago, according to festival organizers.

The pawpaw is one of America’s largest native tree fruits, and indigenous to Ohio. The festival, held at Lake Snowden near Albany, showcases informative sessions about the history of the pawpaw, as well as pawpaw knick-knacks and jewelry for sale. Pawpaw beer is also a staple of the festival, along with many types of food made with pawpaw fruit.

Employees at the Burrito Buggy on Saturday said they rely on being able to attend events like the Pawpaw Festival and various county fairs to keep their food trucks running.

“The amount of business we do on a normal day on the street in Athens is about half as much as we do in a day at a big festival,” said one employee.

According to Athens County Auditor, Jill Thompson, it is difficult to break down the numbers and specific economic impact, but it is a general known fact that without these events, some local businesses would not be able to stay open.

Other festivals including the Number Fest and the Athens Halloween Block Party bring in attracts more than 15,000 and 30,000 people respectively. Some say the size of Athens nearly doubles on Halloween weekend.

The festival hosts food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, musicians and organizations promoting alternative energy and sustainable farming. Most of the booths set up at the festival are by local organizations and community members.

Athens resident Mary Wright, who sells homemade jewelry at the Pawpaw Festival and similar events, said this is more of a hobby for her.

“I sell the things I make for fun and then use the money I make to buy more supplies. I get to meet new people here; it’s so much fun,” said Wright.

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