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Trade Community Center looks for ways to replace festival funding and reopen mill

The tough economic climate of the past few years has created numerous difficulties for many local community clubs and organizations around the nation. With rising operational costs across the board most have had to scale back the services they offer and Johnson County is no exception. However, for hard hit organizations like the Trade Community Center a strong sense of perseverance and determination might just be enough to pull through, keeping a valuable asset to the county alive and well.
One of the most noted recent hardships was the shutdown of the popular Trade Grist Mill last October. Located on the center’s grounds, the Old Snyder Mill was bought by local businessman Dennis Foley and relocated from its original site near Evergreen Baptist Church several years ago. Rebuilt with assistance by inmate crews from the Northeast Correctional Complex, Foley soon had the mill up and running, hiring a professional miller from Abingdon, Virginia.
In only a short amount of time the popular attraction was selling locally made products in stores such as Food City and Food Country and was drawing in people from all over the region as a tourist destination. Unfortunately things ground to a halt last fall, as mechanical trouble on the mill’s main shaft created the need to repair and replace several expensive bearings. Because the community center has been busy renovating and maintaining the old Trade Elementary School, including a roof replacement project that cost more than $20,000, the group simply could not generate the funds to secure the repairs. Although replacement parts were located at a waterwheel company in Franklin, NC, the cost was more than $5,000 before labor. As a result, the repairs have been put on hold until the organization has a better financial standing.
The community center grounds actually belong to Johnson County, which has a 99-year lease with the group. The site of the annual Trade Days Festival for more than 20 years, the event drew between 40 and 50,000 people at its peak. At that time Trade Days made a big economic impact on the county, bringing in thousands of tourist dollars for local hotels, restaurants, and businesses.
Sadly, rising costs for entertainment and dwindling support from the community has seen Trade Days falter as well in the past few years. Although organizers would love to see the festival take off once again, the phenomenal cost increases to provide entertainment have made Trade Days financially unfeasible. Shows that once cost $3,500 to book now run double, and although the festival once operated on a $50,000 budget with multiple shows each year, the downturn has made such an effort nearly impossible.
Even more troubling is a noticeable loss of community support. Where once the center boasted 30-40 strongly active members, the group has now dwindled to a handful of people committed to helping their community any way they can. Meeting at 7 p.m on the first Tuesday of each month, the organization is actively pursuing membership and is open to anyone who is interested in helping and improving the community.
For the rest of the story, pick up a copy of this week's Tomahawk.