Think of it as a block party, only for all of Johnson County.

People will feast on ice cream, cupcakes, barbecue pork and gourmet walking tacos at this year’s Daily Journal Franklin Fest. Sit around the downtown Franklin square to enjoy a beer or a lemon shake-up, and get ready for a show.

One of the area’s most danceable bands will spin rock, pop and R&B to get you groovin’ and movin’.

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In what has become a new Johnson County tradition, the Daily Journal will once again host its summer street party. Food trucks, a beer garden and live music will be part of the festivities, designed to celebrate the newspaper’s longtime connection with the community.

At the center of the party will be Toy Factory, an Indianapolis-based eight-piece band that prides itself on bringing the funk.

“Everybody has songs that they want to hear. The current songs and the songs of the past all have the same energy. They all create a familiarity with the audience,” said Daren Owens, guitarist, keyboardist and vocalist for Toy Factory. “The only thing that will save you from not hearing these set of songs is if you lived under a rock somewhere.”

Toy Factory has developed a significant fanbase in Johnson County. The band has played multiple shows locally in recent years, drawing significant crowds each time at events such as the Greenwood Summer Concert Series and WAMMfest.

Its musical approach has allowed the band to connect to fans both new and old each time they come to the southside.

“Every time we play in the Johnson County area, we kind of add people and invite people from different areas from wherever we’re at,” he said.

Known for their hyperactive live shows and world-class musicianship, Toy Factory is as comfortable playing Motown staples and classic rock as they are tackling the hottest dance tracks of today. One minute, they might be cruising through Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September,” then turn around and burst into a banger by Beyonce or Adele.

Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Prince share the stage with Journey, Huey Lewis and Van Halen.

The key is focusing on the songs that move people, regardless of era, Owens said.

“We try to stay up on the music that people want to hear, which tends to be all of the dance stuff that people grew up on,” he said. “It’s whatever the anthems are. You can play something by Bruno Mars that has a lot of impact. Then you can turn around and play a Bob Seger song, you get the same kind of reaction. It’s always a mix of the current and the past that makes the connection.”

Motivating the audience to get up and boogie starts with the music. But Toy Factory is equally recognized for its spotless choreography. Band members rehearse regularly, working for hours to get the sound and the steps just right.

And after years of playing together, they have developed an uncanny ability to know what’s going on around them and move almost as one.

“I do a lot of reading on how these things are done, and I read once that you know a band is tight when you can look at the guy across the stage from you and both turn left at the same time, and not a word was spoken,” Owens said. “That’s what the goal is.”

All of it comes together into a package that leaves an impact on the audience. That is the ultimate goal for Toy Factory.

“The success of any act is based on the show that they put on, so that people have something to take home with them. It’s the memories that you’re holding on to,” Owens said.

If you go

The Daily Journal Franklin Fest

What: The Daily Journal invites the community to celebrate the summer season with the paper’s fourth annual street party, featuring food vendors, beer and live music.

When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday; headlining band Toy Factory starts at 7.

Where: East Court and Monroe streets, downtown Franklin, in front of the newspaper’s office.

Cost: Free

It wouldn’t be a party without some great food and a beverage to sip on. The Elks Club will be hosting a beer garden featuring craft and domestic beers, and food trucks are set to provide everything from barbecue nachos to Italian sausage with peppers and onions. Here’s what to expect at the Daily Journal Franklin Fest.

Brozinni Pizzeria

What: New York-style pizza served out of a stainless steel pizza oven-on-wheels

What’s on the menu: Garlic knuckles, made-to-order pizza, the 34th Street, with a garlic butter base, roasted garlic, ricotta cheese and fresh basil.

Jones Kettle Corn

What: A family-run kettle corn stand based in Greenwood

What’s on the menu: Kettle corn, caramel corn and lemon shake-ups

Karma Kitchen

What: High-quality comfort food focused on fresh ingredients

What’s on the menu: Gourmet walking taco salads, soft tacos, vegetarian tacos, brats, Italian sausage with peppers and onions and four-cheese macaroni and cheese with bacon.

Mrs. Curl

What: The popular Greenwood ice cream shop, served out of a restored 1959 Mr. Softee truck

What’s on the menu: Chocolate, vanilla or twist ice cream, root beer floats, sundaes and shakes.

Jivy’s BBQ

What: Mouth-watering barbecue and smoked meat

What’s on the menu: Barbecue pulled pork nachos, hickory-smoked pulled pork, smoked mac-and-cheese

Gigi’s Cupcakes

What: Artisanal cupcakes in flavors ranging from wedding cake to chocolate chip cookie dough

What’s on the menu: Cupcakes, ice cream sandwiches and cold-brewed coffee.

Johnson BBQ Shack

What: The mobile version of a Bargersville barbecue restaurant

What’s on the menu: Brisket, turkey legs, pulled pork and chicken

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at or 317-736-2727.