Augustans, agencies gear up for Arts in the Heart of Augusta

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 12:15 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2023 at 6:01 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - In three days, the Arts in the Heart of Augusta festival returns.

Tents are set up and roads are starting to shut down.

Safety is always top of mind with any event, but Arts in the Heart especially, with thousands going to downtown Augusta.

For some, that means being able to protect themselves with a weapon on hand should anything happen. Others feel more safe if guns are banned.

A viewer reached out to News 12 about the event’s ‘no gun’ policy and what the law says.

An attorney says because of a 2014 Georgia Law, the same law causing controversy and the shut down of Music Midtown, called the ‘Safe Carry Protection Act’, they aren’t allowed to enforce not allowing guns.

“Regardless of who the organizer or sponsor of the event is, if they’re having the event on public property, like a city park or something like that, they’re prohibited by state law from from banning weapons at the event,” said John Monroe, an attorney for John Monroe Law.

On the Arts in the Heart of Augusta flyer, you’ll find three things prohibited: No pets, no coolers, and no guns. Their website only has no pets and coolers.

“For the short-term leases like that apply to festivals and you know, special events. There’s not really an exception or anything to that,” said Monroe.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office says they didn’t have any problems last year enforcing the ban.

This year they look to do the same and say it’s legal because the Arts Council rents out Broad Street and the Augusta Common for the festival.

Lawful or unlawful, people know the risks.

“There’s always a possibility of danger when you decide to start your day so it’s just you have to risk to live and if you decide you want to take that risk it’ll be worth it,” said Ashley Hadden, Augustan.

Hadden says she’s excited about the possibility of seeing the art she enjoys coming to town.

“The Greek style. I love stone statues,” said Hadden.

There will be more than 130 artists, entertainment, food booths, and activities for kids.

Advance tickets are $12 to $15.

The event will be Friday through Sunday. Hours are 5-9 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

There are also some road closures in place starting Tuesday at 11 p.m.

Roads closed include Albion Avenue, Eighth and Ninth streets from Ellis to Broad, and Broad from Seventh to 10th streets.

There are going to be more closures starting around 11 p.m. on Wednesday.

This includes McCartan Street and 9th Street from Broad to Jones streets.

Plus, crews will block off the parking well across from the Ramada hotel.

Officials plan not to close anything off on Thursday, but crews will block off a lane on Reynolds Street between 9th and 8th streets on Friday.

Road closures will be implemented from now through Sept. 17 after the festival ends.

They will stay closed until the sheriff’s department deems the areas safe for traffic.

The sheriff’s office is monitoring the area all day every day from now until the festival, and Central EMS will provide onsite medical care during festival hours.