Asheboro festival nixed amid pandemic concerns, hospital capacity

Autumn staple taken off slate for second year in a row

ASHEBORO — Next weekend’s Asheboro Fall Festival has been called off amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“We critically and thoughtfully made this decision,” said Carolyn Isley, president of the Randolph Arts Guild. “Above all was the health and safety of the Randolph County community.”

So it marks the second year in a row that an event that had been a staple in the community for nearly a half-century won’t be held in downtown Asheboro. It had been scheduled for Oct. 2-3.

This is an event that had drawn up to 60,000 people in some years. There had been considerable promotion regarding the festival this year until last week’s announced cancelation, a decision that Isley said was rooted in moral and ethical concerns as the guild’s board sought to be compassionate and responsible.

Meanwhile, the Ramseur Eastern Randolph Chamber of Commerce will hold its festival Oct. 16 in downtown Ramseur. J.C. Parrish of the chamber said spaces are available and vendors from the Asheboro Fall Festival are welcome.

Isley said the scope of the festival in Asheboro would be too large to monitor or enforce any mask-wearing initiatives and subsequent contract tracing if COVID-related cases were linked to the event. She said festival goers are across all age groups.

“As a board, we’ve been vigorously monitoring the statistics,” Isley said. “We also took the advice of the health leaders in our community.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, five Randolph County residents have been admitted to the hospital in the past seven days. The CDC also reports that 21.7% of the hospital beds were in use over the past week with 71.9% of the ICU capacity in use. Countywide, over 41.5% of the population above 12 years old has been vaccinated.

She said information from Randolph Health indicating the local hospital was at capacity along with a 60 percent increase in positive coronavirus tests across a two-week period were factors. She also said with at least two area schools ceasing some in-person instruction that concerns were raised.

“We just felt like (this could be) a super-spreader event,” Isley said. “We would be devastated if something happened to anyone in our community because of the festival.”

Prior to the cancellation, plans had included more spacing between booths to reduce some close contacts.

More than 185 vendors had registered for this year’s festival. That doesn’t include some nonprofits involved in selling food and music and entertainment personnel that would be on site.

The decision to call off the festival was announced more than two weeks before the scheduled event. Isley said it was important to give vendors and volunteers as much advance notice as possible.

“These vendors take a lot of time and put in a lot of planning,” she said.

Isley said the board also noted that festivals with various themes were called off in Lexington, Salisbury and Wilmington.

The first Fall Festival was in 1972 with 30-35 vendors. It had been held every year until a hurricane caused the 2015 version to be called off. Now, it’s nixed for the second year in a row.

When making the announcement, the statement from Randolph Arts Guild read, in part: “Ongoing discussions have been difficult and complex. Sadly, we have ultimately decided that it is in the best interest of the community to cancel. The Fall Festival is an essential economic driver for local non-profits, community groups, small businesses, and vendors. We understand the disappointment that this may bring, as many in the city of Asheboro and throughout Randolph County look forward to this great event. But the current health statistics within Randolph County and surrounding areas created challenges for safely managing and hosting this traditional family-friendly festival for the city of Asheboro and Randolph County.”

According to the Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce, annual attendance for recent versions of the vestal attracted 40,000 to 60,000 for the two-day event.

Vendor registration fees will be available for reimbursement beginning in October.

The 2022 fall festival is scheduled for Oct. 1-2.

 

By Bob Sutton

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