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CarolinaFest? It's speed street for the DNC

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You know Food Lion Speed Street, right? The Race Week festival brings thousands of Charlotteans and out-of-town race fans to have a good time along Tryon Street.

The guy in charge of that is now helping to pull together CarolinaFest, the free Labor Day festival uptown to welcome the Democratic National Convention.

After the event was moved from Charlotte Motor Speedway to uptown in June, Jay Howard, the president of Charlotte’s JHE Production Group, got the job of producing it.

Howard sounded calm about the task Tuesday, with the event in less than three weeks.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “I’m lucky I have seasoned veterans working for me.”

JHE is an event producer that does everything from arrange large mobile tours for national companies to putting on events for Speed, the TV racing network. The company is best known for Speed Street, which involves “everything,” Howard says: “Deal with the city, apply for the permits, book the talent, place the Port-A-Johns. You name it, we’re it.”

CarolinaFest is different. JHE is mostly in charge of infrastructure – all those stages and facilities.

“It’s like we’re the general contractor with the (Charlotte in 2012) Host Committee as the architect,” he said.

Howard describes the festival’s goal as introducing Charlotte to visitors and introducing the convention to Charlotte. It’s sort of like the way Speed Street, the annual May festival to celebrate Race Week, gives a taste of racing to locals who don’t go to the track and a taste of Charlotte to visitors who come just for the race.

“You should leave being proud to live here,” he said. “This is the first impression for local residents of the impact of the convention, and for visitors having their first impression of Charlotte.”

The festival starts at 10 a.m. with a Labor Day Parade. Other activities include free admission to the Mint Museum, the Bechtler Museum and the Gantt Center, and discounted admissions to Discovery Place, NASCAR Hall of Fame and Levine Museum of the New South.

Legacy Village, in the parking lot between the Gantt Center and The Green, is designed to highlight Mayor Anthony Foxx’s civic priorities to get people involved after the convention. One activity: Build the second part of a house that will be started at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. The completed house will be given to a veteran.

While Tryon Street will be blocked off between Stonewall and Trade streets, there will be access points at Stonewall and Tryon, and on Tryon at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Third and Fourth streets.

So far, no announcements have been made of entertainment, although there have been rumors that one would be singer John Legend.

Although both Howard and Joshua Field of the Host Committee would not estimate how many people will come, both said they expect excitement to build when musical acts are announced.

“You should not be surprised if the area is up to capacity,” Howard said. “It looks really, really vibrant when you have a crowd there.”

Purvis: 704-358-5236
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