KENNETT SQUARE — There's life after the pandemic, and Kennett Square officials want to be sure the town of just over 6,000 people is the first place people visit.
It's reasonable to assume, in that the borough stages more festivals and special events than any other municipality its size in the region.
In March, the Kennett Square Borough Council approved the return of The Mushroom Festival this fall.
In 2020, The Mushroom Festival Committee canceled the popular weekend event due to the pandemic. The September festival typically brings in 100,000 visitors to the community.
Officials last week announced that the popular Mushroom Festival will take place this year.
And plans to bring back additional popular events are also underway.
“We are just now beginning to receive requests,” Mayor Matthew Fetick said of special event applications. “We don’t expect anything to come back full scale but a gradual return of popular events is expected. As long as they can be done safely I think by summer we will see more events scheduled for the fall.”
The mayor said the borough is working with Historic Kennett Square, merchants and other organizations to implement safe events.
Kennett Square is a popular place to live, work and visit in Southern Chester County.
“Kennett Square has a long history of being an inclusive and diverse place to live and work,” Fetick said. “There is a rich history of supporting all residents going back to being a hub of the Underground Railroad.”
The mayor said, “The community works together to support one another and our local businesses. We have a great quality of life in one of America’s best small towns. We are truly a fantastic example of small-town USA at its best.”
Fetick described the borough as “a friendly and safe place to live. People are neighborly and help one another.”
Additionally, “the business community is strong and thriving and is very involved in improving the quality of life for all who live and visit the borough,” Fetick said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, the median household income in Kennett Square was 71,500, with the median property value of $253,000.
“There is a lot happening in Kennett Square. We will see development and growth at a record pace,” Fetick said.
Soon, “the new library and resource center will open and will become a destination for many throughout Southern Chester County. Their programming and events will be a significant draw which will bring more and more visitors to town,” Fetick said.
The new $18 million library is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
Additionally, the mayor said there is a strong possibility that the community shall see development of the NVF site. “That is a very large parcel, and it’s redevelopment will make a huge impact,” Fetick noted.
The community shall also soon see the construction of recently approved apartment complexes as well as some new townhomes, the mayor added.
And for such a robust community, there is hope to create a new municipal community center, too.
“The borough’s facilities are woefully inadequate and can not support the future needs of our administration, staff and police department,” Fetick said on Saturday. “We have taken preliminary steps to acquire new space and are exploring all options to support the current and future needs of borough facilities.”
Across America, and globally, Kennett Square is commonly referred to as "The Mushroom Capital of the World."
“Our businesses, stores and restaurants are open," Fetick said. "There will be more outdoor dining and sidewalk sales. Visitors can easily park in our expanded parking garage and stroll through Kennett Square. The new Kennett Blooms beautification project will be great to see.”
The mayor said this beautification project is a partnership between Longwood Gardens and the borough, facilitated and led by Historic Kennett Square.
“Even with our anticipated growth Kennett Square will retain its charm and small-town feel. We will be a local hub for tourism with our diverse restaurants, breweries, wineries and niche shops,” the mayor said.
“The community keeps coming forward with some ideas and so proposals to us, the management team at the borough,” said Police Chief William Holdsworth on Friday. “We’ve been able to really kick off some things in a new direction.”
For instance, instead of using an alley, the borough recommended that The Kennett Flash host its new concert series this spring and summer on the rooftop of the Genesis parking garage.
The borough council approved the new concert series in March. There are nearly 50 concerts planned through the fall. The number of attendees will be restricted and attendees much purchase tickets via The Flash.
Besides a scaled-down version of The Mushroom Festival, Holdsworth said plans are underway also for the Mushroom Cap Half Marathon in November.
Holdsworth said when planning for events, it comes down to providing enough space and enough safety for everybody in the community to thrive.
Last fall, the Kennett Brewfest, organized by Historic Kennett Square, hosted a backyard brewfest edition in which people picked up beer, from regional crafters, to-go to enjoy at home.
“It worked out well. It was done well,” Holdsworth said. He added that a similar event took place in February for what would have typically been the Winter Brewfest.
Holdsworth lauded the willingness of people to come together in Kennett Square. “Even through a pandemic like this, everyone is still working together for the benefit of the community, and the residents and the merchants,” Holdsworth said.
“Everybody is just continually trying to come up with news ideas of ways that people can get back to some kind of normal,” the chief said.
Holdsworth said beginning this Thursday, the borough will close a portion of downtown State Street for outside dining and shopping. He said municipal leaders have been working with Historic Kennett Square and merchants on the details.
Plans are to shut down a portion of State Street from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and from 5 p.m. Fridays through 10 p.m. Sundays.
The Kennett Square mayor said that private venues such as the Creamery will begin hosting approved events starting with the return of the Friday Farmers Market.
“Special events are a key element for driving tourism in Chester County,” said Susan Hamley, executive director of the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau. “The loss of so many the past year had added to the overall devastation to the hospitality community as a whole.”
Further, “visitors to the region bring in much needed economic vitality to the community, staying in our accommodations, dining and shopping and enjoying attractions and vibrant festivals and events,” Hamley said.
“Kennett Square is a tremendous tourism asset in so many ways including being home to Longwood Gardens, one of the finest display gardens in the world,” Hamley said. “The Borough of Kennett Square is a wonderful complement to visiting Longwood and the region.”
She described Kennett Square as a community with: “a charming downtown” which offers “fantastic dining, including mushroom specialties from what we market as ‘The Mushroom Capital’ – as over 60 percent of the nation’s crop hails from the area. Unique shops, galleries and breweries are all part of the town’s appeal.”
As for the return of The Mushroom Festival, Hamley said the Chester County Conference & Visitors Bureau is “thrilled.”
The festival is scheduled to take place on September 11 and September 12.
“We are confident that the event will be a safe and welcoming experience for all. Things may not look exactly the same, but that is not necessarily negative,” Hamley said.
She said additional annual events on the radar include hopes for the return of the Kennett Square Brewfest and Midnight on the Square, held on New Year’s Eve which features a famous mushroom drop when the clock strikes midnight to ring in 2022.
“Local businesses need the economic boost that festivals and events provide,” Hamley said. “We’ll wait and see from our friends in Kennett Square how plans progress, we are cautiously optimistic as we all safely navigate this new landscape.”
“There has been a ton of adoption,” said Bo Wright, executive director of Historic Kennett Square on Friday, regarding events, tourism and commerce in the borough since the White House declared a national emergency, nearly 13 months ago on March 13, 2020, to combat the pandemic.
“There’s no storage of people who care about the community,” Wright said of Kennett Square.
The mayor concurred.
“Kennett Square is a community that comes together to support one another,” Fetick said.
There are more than 30 non-profit organizations in Kennett Square focused on improving the quality of life for all, he added.
“This focus on community support and community building is unmatched. I can’t think of a need that a resident could have that we wouldn’t have a resource to address," Fetick stated.
“We will continue to be a diverse community where everyone has an opportunity to live, work and thrive,” Fetick said. “We will be a great example of how small towns can rebound from the pandemic and thrive.”