Warrenton calls off Fall Festival

By: 
Adam Rollins
Staff Writer

The city of Warrenton is canceling its annual Fall Festival, one of the area’s largest public events.

City Administrator Terri Thorn told The Record that the festival is being canceled due to a recent surge in local cases of COVID-19. She said holding the festival would have put the public and city staff at risk.

“The event brings thousands of visitors from outside the local area, potentially resulting in an even greater surge of positive cases to our area. This concern for the safety of our local residents, combined with concerns over potentially exposing the majority of our police officers and other city staff who work the event, was the major impetus for the decision,” Thorn said.

Unlike other events in downtown Warrenton that are organized by private groups, the Fall Festival is planned and managed out of City Hall. Entertainment offerings during the festival are paid for by a special tourism tax collected from local hotels.

Major entertainment offerings had already been booked for this year’s festival, including a main stage show featuring the classic bands Poco, Pure Prairie League and Orleans. Yearly musical favorite Butch Wax and the Hollywoods was also scheduled for the festival, which usually has inflatable play areas and other entertainment as well.

“All the bands as well as the other entertainment and rented equipment have agreed to move the reservations to the Fall Festival date for next year without any type of penalty. Therefore, no funds were lost in any manner,” Thorn commented.

She added that tourism funds allocated for the Fall Festival this year will be rolled over into next year, unless the Warrenton Board of Aldermen approves a different use for them.

“We look forward to an even bigger and better Fall Festival in 2021,” Thorn said.

Thorn told the board of aldermen July 7 that booth vendors for the Fall Festival have also been hesitant to register this year. The impact of vendors on the quality of the festival was a relevant consideration, Thorn told the aldermen.

City Director of Operations Brandie Walters said 10 vendors who had already registered for the Fall Festival are being issued refunds for their registration fees.

Along with the dozens of vendors that normally bring their wares to the festival, Main Street businesses often take part in the festivities. Stacey Blondin, president of the Warrenton Downtown Association, said it’s disappointing for them to see the Fall Festival canceled, but understandable.

“The city of Warrenton puts on a great event and everyone in the downtown district looks forward to thousands of people in our area at the fun, carefree setting,” Blondin said. “These are strange times and none of us have lived through a pandemic like we are having. More than any previous
years we needed to get out, let loose and enjoy ourselves. WDA would like to thank the tourism board and city of Warrenton for all of their time spent on this event in previous years.”

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