Tracy Byrd won’t be able to lead the “Watermelon Crawl” in the town that is known as “The Home of the World’s Sweetest Watermelons.”
Tuesday night, the Cave City Watermelon Festival Committee announced the cancellation of this year’s festival on the event’s official Facebook page.
White River Now spoke with committee member Julie Johnson regarding the difficult decision to cancel this year’s festivities.
Johnson told White River Now that the committee listened closely to the Arkansas Department of Health and remained optimistic, planning “full steam ahead,” until it became apparent that COVID-19 remains a large issue.
Certain criteria and conditions have to be met in order to receive the blessing by the Department of Health to host events like the festival.
Things like hand sanitizing or handwashing stations had to be available to patrons, which due to current demand, are extremely hard to find. Organizers and festival attendants would have to enforce social distancing and mask-wearing, as well.
Johnson shared that the committee was fully expecting 10,000 attendees to show up for Byrd, their entertainment headliner. The environment would make social distancing nearly impossible to enforce, organizers concluded.
During the pandemic, Sharp County and the Cave City area have reported low case numbers of COVID-19.
Many people from all over the country were planning to make the trek to Cave City for the festival since it was one of the few remaining events slated to happen.
An influx of non-local visitors could have the potential of increasing the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak. An outbreak would not only impact attendees of the festival but the entire community by potentially impacting the school year and reopening of area nursing homes.
“If there was an outbreak [stemming from the festival], that would be a terrible burden to carry,” said Johnson.
“At the end of the day, we have to look out for the welfare of the community,” said Johnson.
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