By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Mayor Jack Reed Jr. promised Tuesday to resolve a battle shaping up between the Cellular South GumTree Festival and the Gum Tree 10K Run over the race’s route along a downtown block of Jefferson Street.
“It’s going to work out,” said Reed, who has talked with both parties. “It’s not the Tupelo way.
“We’re going to make it work. We’ve got good volunteers on both sides.”
Plans for the 39th annual festival, May 8-9, call for vendors to be on the street between the Lee County Courthouse and the Justice Center. In years past, the festival was held on the courthouse lawn, but county officials asked the festival to move vendors and artists to the streets in an effort to protect the lawn from foot traffic.
The change was announced earlier this month.
Plans for the 32nd annual 10,000-meter race call for a field of 700-plus runners to travel down the same street the morning of May 8.
For safety reasons, festival officials asked race officials to alter their course to avoid that portion of Jefferson.
“That’s the bottom line for us,” said Tina Lutz, the festival’s director. “We’ve made a change moving from the courthouse lawn. I’d like to think the race would shift its course as well.”
Gum Tree race director Andy Hughes says it’s too late for that.
“As of right now, the Gum Tree course will stay the same,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “We may be willing to compromise in the future, but we were not given the opportunity to do so this year.”
Hughes said it would have been a “major ordeal” to modify the course this year.
“It’s a certified course from start to finish,” he said. “It would have been a bad idea to try to change it. By the time we got the news (of the festival’s plans) we had sent out 15,000 applications with the race course map on them.”
Lutz’s concern for the Gum Tree runners is with the wires and hoses that will be stretched across that portion of Jefferson Street the morning of the run.
“The corridor for the runners will not be the width of the street,” she said. “Our concern is the bottleneck of 700 runners running over wires and hoses. We feel like that would be a hazard for the runners.”
Hughes said carpets would be placed over problem areas on the street and the runners would be informed of the conditions. And because it’s in the first mile of the run, he said, the area would be used only six to 10 minutes.
Both the festival and the run have permits from the city to use the street May 8.
Lutz said earlier Tuesday festival organizers will take legal action if needed to keep the Gum Tree 10K and its runners off Jefferson.
“I understand they’re going to get an injunction to keep us from running up Jefferson,” Hughes said. “I really like our course the way it is. We’d like to continue to run up Jefferson.
“It’s the Gum Tree course.”
There was a minor course change made more than 10 years ago to help with traffic control problems.
“We don’t want to stop the run, we just need them to adjust it one block for safety concerns,” Lutz said. “We think the run is a great thing.”
Contact Gene Phelps at (662) 678-1593 or firstname.lastname@example.org.