South Charlotte

Ballantyne Festival 1 year in the making

With a Chamber of Commerce chapter, a thriving corporate park, a resort, an orchestra and one of Charlotte's fastest growing YMCAs, the Ballantyne area is starting to look lot like the "Town of Ballantyne."

And come Oct. 8, it will have a large-scale signature event.

The first Ballantyne Festival, a joint effort of the Morrison YMCA, Ballantyne Breakfast Club and Ballantyne Chamber of Commerce, will be the culmination of nearly a year of planning.

For the last two years, the Ballantyne Breakfast Club has hosted a Candidates Forum and Chili Cook-off at Ballantyne Corporate Park, where local candidates mingle with constituents and community groups compete for first place in the taste contest, judged by representatives from Johnston & Wales University.

The Morrison YMCA had a fall festival of its own called Inspire Ballantyne and always participated in the chili cook-off.

"Both events were really good," said Brooke Beddow, senior community relations director for the Morrison YMCA. "It made sense for us to want to partner on it to make both of our events bigger and better. ... The best of Ballantyne."

Free and open to the public, the daylong event will be at the Morrison YMCA.

Nearly 20 area groups, including returning champs, the Charlotte Fire Department, will bring their best chili with free samples.

There will be a kids' zone with games, contests, food, live music and seasonal activities, such as hay rides and pumpkin carvings.

Local police and fire departments will give demonstrations and have vehicles and equipment on display.

Local nonprofits and sponsors will be set up throughout the festival.

Talent from high schools, including Ardrey Kell, South Mecklenburg, Providence, Northwest School of the Performing Arts, will perform. Ray Eschert, president of the Ballantyne Breakfast Club, hopes the event will develop into a community institution like the Matthews Alive! festival over Labor Day in downtown Matthews.

"We're not a town, but a lot of people...identify with (Ballantyne) much in the same way people say 'I live in Pineville' or 'I live in Matthews,' " said Eschert. "What the Ballantyne area needed was a town-like signature event."

For Eschert, it's all about building community, which is why he's already thinking about next year.

I've always looked at this as the baby step," said Eschert. "If people see there's a value to it, (we'll) increase it and really build something."