Yesterday, Main Street - Toccoa announced that the 2020 Toccoa Harvest Festival has been cancelled due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Community response to that announcement prompted ConnectLocal to contact Main Street Director Christian Hamilton to learn more about the decision-making process and Main Street's criteria used to determine which events can be safely managed, and which should be cancelled.
Following is Hamilton's response:
Your query was actually discussed this morning at the DDA (Downtown Development Authority) meeting. It was determined that the current Ida Cox attendance (which fluctuates between 200 - 400 a Saturday right now, though usually sees upwards of 1,000 individuals), and traditionally sees family and friend units sitting together to enjoy music, is far more manageable for safety concerns than the transitory nature that the 14,000 person two-day Harvest Festival entails.
The DDA determined that it would be near impossible to ask 14,000 individuals to wear masks and stay away from each other at the festival, which during its peak, sees thousands of people walking shoulder-to-shoulder in packed crowds. Furthermore, we can enforce our one-person at a time bathroom policy during the Ida Cox Music Series. Harvest Festival sees increased lines for the restrooms, even with the portable toilets that we employ. There is no way we could guarantee that folks would abide by the festival guidelines.
The DDA took into consideration the other cancelled festivals in the region, including those in Lavonia, Royston, Hiawassee, Gainesville, and other neighboring communities. Most large-scale fall festivals have been cancelled.
We cannot compare the 200 - 400 person Ida Cox Music Series to the 14,000 person Harvest Festival, one of the largest annual festivals in Northeast Georgia. Ida Cox is still continuing because it is a smaller and self-contained event, and we certainly hope that, with the cancellation of Harvest Festival this year, we will be able to provide an event of similar size and scope to that of Ida Cox in the Harvest Festival's absence. We look forward to making announcements as to what that will entail soon.
We understand the concern from downtown business owners and residents and, during these tumultuous times, believe that now more than ever we need to support our Downtown community in a way that is safe, manageable, sustainable, and forward-thinking. We've already done this thus far by providing 26 grants two months ago to our businesses, we have helped over a dozen downtown businesses successfully apply for PPP and EIDL funding, and we are dedicated to not leaving a gap in our programming with Harvest Festival's brief absence.