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Safer Holiday Celebrations Connect Residents and Support Local Business in Franklin, TN

Franklin, TN, USA
In Collaboration With
City of Franklin, Tennessee

Government Champion

Downtown Franklin, The Heritage Foundation, Visit Franklin


8.3 Thousand USD

Project Status

In Progress/Under Construction since 2022

At a Glance

Survey research highlighting how important holiday gatherings are to residents is being used to inform The City of Franklin’s strategy to organize safe holiday celebrations during COVID-19.

Problem Addressed

Large groups can’t gather to limit the spread of the virus. For local governments facing public health requirements and internal staffing constraints, it would be easier to minimize 2020 holiday celebrations entirely. Yet, survey research has shown that Franklin’s residents strongly value community celebrations that bring them together and shutdowns and limitations affect the local business community. Eric Stuckey, City Administrator of the City of Franklin said "Special events help make Franklin a special place...Of course, the great challenge of our times is the COVID-19 pandemic, and our ability to foster in-person events is challenged like never before."

Solution(s) Used

Franklin’s residents rate the City higher than the national benchmark on resident participation in city-sponsored events, special events, and social events according to The National Community Survey (The NCS). The NCS is the gold-standard in resident opinion surveys on community livability. Franklin has participated in The NCS for several years. NCS results help guide the City’s strategic planning, budgeting, and evaluation process. Eric Stuckey, City Administrator of the City of Franklin said, “Cultural opportunities are vitally important to the vitality of Franklin."

Informal feedback shows City leaders that observing holidays is important to residents, even during the pandemic. This feedback, along with the NCS survey results that highlight resident desire for city-sponsored events, has given city leaders the evidence they need to begin planning safer holiday celebrations.


When the City’s typical holiday celebrations were canceled due to COVID-19, Franklin’s leaders decided not to wallow. NCS survey data told them that community connectivity matters to Franklin’s residents, perhaps even more so than before. With a little creativity, they believed that they could dream up safer celebrations that still capture the spirit of the season.

“These new events will help our community remain safe and socially distanced but still enjoy the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season," said Mayor Dr. Ken Moore in the City of Franklin website.

Neighborhoods can request for Santa Claus to visit on a sleigh escorted by the Fire Department. So far, fifty neighborhoods have signed up.

The Parks Department will host a Christmas drive-thru at a park. The experience will feature lights, characters and more.

Last, The City will host a virtual tree lighting program to air on the City’s social channels and TV. After the program, residents will be able to walk by the display throughout the season.


In addition to creatively adjusting Winter celebrations, Franklin's leaders also reimagined their annual fall Pumpkin Fest as a safer event.

Paint the Town Orange is a month-long celebration on Franklin’s Historic Main Street. During October, Franklin is aglow with shades of orange. Visitors can purchase an event t-shirt and facemask. Anyone who wears the commemorative clothing can participate in a variety of promotions. In addition, attendees can participate in an online costume contest and outdoor historical tours.

“This has been a very stressful time during 2020 and we’re looking for ways we can continue to unite our community and also ways that we can help our businesses,” said Moore about the event in a City of Franklin video.

The events and promotions support Franklin's small business community.

“Government must be at its best when times are worst,” said Stuckey. Hosting safer holiday celebrations is just one way Franklin’s leaders are keeping the community united and uplifted during these difficult times.


  1. Directly Including Resident Values into Strategic Planning: Survey research highlights the importance of community celebrations to Franklin’s residents, even during a pandemic.
  2. Community Connection and Civic Participation: These creative alternative holiday celebrations prove that you can bring neighbors together in festive and safer ways.
  3. Support for Local Businesses: Paint the Town Orange and Franklin’s Christmas Celebration creatively use promotions and other activities that encourage residents to support local business.

Something Unique

Franklin won a 2020 Voice of the People (VOP) Award for Excellence in Community Engagement. The VOP Awards are the only awards given in local government based on resident opinion. Franklin won this award for high ratings on The National Community Survey (The NCS) and taking the best actions based on The NCS.

Who Should Consider?

Visitor bureaus, parks and recreation departments, chambers of commerce, and business leaders

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