BRISTOL -

Karen Hester is hard at work to open her new business, The Southern Churn, in downtown Bristol.

"We've worked till about 2 o'clock in the morning for the past month to get everything ready and open," she says.

She'll offer soft serve ice cream, roasted nuts and fudge - and the timing of the opening is strategic - just in time for Food City Family Race Night.

From 1 to 9 p.m. Thursday, cars are kept off State Street allowing thousands of race fans to walk and check out Bristol's downtown. There will be opportunities for fans to meet their favorite drivers and get some free food.

Other businesses have the same idea. Hugh Testerman, owner of Blakely-Mitchell, pulls racks of sale clothes to the sidewalk. "You don't have customers coming in to the store, so you bring the merchandise out to the customers," he says.

Testerman says fans aren't in the area to buy clothes, but they'll pick up some random items. "Lots of shirts, lots of hats," he says.

Lisa Martin, owner of KP Restaurant and Bar, sees her business get busier this time every year. "We have a lot of return guests that come from all over the country - from Canada and outside the United States. People that have been coming for ten years," she says.

She's glad Race Night is downtown because it allows fans to see sights other than the Bristol Motor Speedway. "I think we have a unique setting downtown. And the race fans love to come down here, visit all the stores," she says.

News 5 walked down State Street and saw several businesses with "Welcome Race Fans" signs, so whether fans want ice cream, a hat, or a meal during Race Night festivities, they'll walk through the doors of downtown's stores.

We called the Public Works Department, and a spokesperson says they will start closing State Street Thursday morning around 5:30. People will be allowed to walk on the street between Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Commonwealth Ave.