By Richard Rourk
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of several of Unicoi County’s spring and summer festivals.
The Town of Erwin was forced to cancel The Great Outdoors Festival which was originally scheduled for May 2.
“Following the recommendation from the Center for Disease Control, the Town of Erwin has decided to cancel the Erwin Great Outdoors Festival 2020,” Town of Erwin Communications Specialist Jamie Rice said. “Our community is vibrant and resilient. We wish we could celebrate with you this spring, but your health and safety come first.”
In the Town of Unicoi, both the 25th Annual Fiddler’s and Fiddleheads Festival, which was originally scheduled for April 25, and the 18th Annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival, which was originally scheduled for May 16, were canceled due to COVID-19.
“We were hoping it wouldn’t come to this since it was going to be a special year for the (Fiddler’s and Fiddleheads Festival) as it celebrated 25 amazing years,” Mayor Johnny Lynch said. “But our main concern is the safety and well-being of our residents and any potential visitors to the community. Given the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus and the recent spread into our region, I feel this cancellation is what’s truly best for our citizens.”
For the 18th Annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival, the decision to cancel came following Governor Bill Lee’s Executive Order that placed the state under a “Stay at Home” order unless performing essential activities.
“The governor wants us at home, he’s made that clear,” Lynch said. “And health officials are saying the coronavirus threat could last up until the summer, so it’s best for our citizens if we don’t have the festival this year.”
In the southern part of the county, the annual Ramp Festival, which was scheduled to take place at the old Flag Pond School and sponsored by the Flag Pond Ruritan Club, has been canceled.
For one of the largest area festivals, which brings in thousands of visitors from all over the globe, it looks like no changes will be made at this time. The 2020 Apple Festival is still scheduled for Oct. 2-3, according to event organizers.
“As of right now everything is looking good for the Apple Festival,” Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Amanda Delp said. “We have had a few vendors drop out but it had nothing to do with COVID-19. We had one vendor retire and one that could not make it due to health reasons.”
Delp did acknowledge that several fundraisers for the Unicoi County Chamber of Commerce have been modified.
“One of our largest fundraisers, which is the annual golf tournament, has been postponed and we are hoping to reschedule it for some time this summer,” Delp said.
According to Delp, the Chamber has shifted its focus to helping local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have several programs we are working with to provide relief to our local businesses,” Delp said. “It is crucial in the meantime that we as a community come out and support those businesses that have supported us over the years. It’s time to help out those businesses that may have sponsored your children’s sports teams or the businesses that have helped you out in the past.”