By Richard Rourk
COVID-19 has caused everything from cancelations to delays to modifications for so many events across the country. However, the annual Unicoi County Apple Festival, which is scheduled for Oct. 2-3 is, for the time being, still on.
“We are scheduled to go on as normal, but that can change,” Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Delp said. “We know there will be changes that will need to be made to the festival due to COVID-19. The Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is preparing meetings to discuss plans of how effective procedures and protocols can be utilized for the safety of all involved. We will revisit the matter again in August before moving forward.”
Delp and other chamber officials recently met with Town of Erwin officials to discuss safety measures for the Apple Festival.
“We met with the chamber on June 10 and they decided that they were going to go forward with this year’s Apple Festival,” Town of Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley said. “They are supposed to let us know something on Aug. 8 on how they plan to handle the crowd. As far as the town is concerned, we are going by the governor’s protocols and before we could give our consent for the festival, they would have to meet those protocols. The board members and myself took an oath to ensure and protect the health, safety and welfare of all residents of Erwin.”
According to Delp, the chamber is researching other festivals in the region for some guidance. “We are currently studying area events for what works and what doesn’t,” Delp said. “We will then prepare a plan and show it to Erwin officials during their Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting on Aug. 10.”
Regarding the COVID-19 protocols, the chamber expects to prepare for social distancing and sanitizing during the upcoming festival.
“Social distancing is something that more than likely will still be here in October, so we are planning for that,” Delp said. “We are looking at ways to spread out booths and have more handwashing and hand sanitizing stations available.
Delp explained that one way the festival can utilize social distancing measures is by regulating the amount of vendors.
“As far as vendors, we are almost sold out,” Delp said. “At this time, we only have about 40 empty spaces and we stopped taking new applications in April.”
Although Delp is hopeful that the Apple Festival will go on in October, that final decision will be made in the coming months.
“We will make our final decision on Aug. 1,” Delp said. “That will give us time to see what regulations will be coming out of Nashville.”
For more information about the Unicoi County Apple Festival, including updates, please follow the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce on Facebook or at unicoicountyapplefestival.com.