The Lewisport Heritage Festival, a staple of summers since 1989, will be held in the fall this year, which organizers hope will allow them to have a festival free of COVID-19 restrictions, or at least more so than this June when it was originally planned.
This year’s festival will be held on September 23, 24 and 25, starting just one day after the first day of fall. The change is out of necessity, both to avoid having to cancel due to coronavirus like last year, but also to be able secure a ride company before it’s too late.
“The festival kind of revolves around when you can get rides, and quite frankly that was about the only shot we had on getting the rides,” said Brent Wigginton, Lewisport’s city administrator.
Last year’s festival was originally pushed from June to September before being canceled completely, so Wigginton began talking to the ride company about alternate later dates for this year and was told the schedules were filling up due to other festivals doing the same thing.
And on top of that, the ride company is required to tell the Kentucky Department of Agriculture where it would be working this year in order for the department to inspect the rides, and that report had to be turned in by the first part of March.
“Hopefully by September with the vaccines and everything I’m hoping that the mask mandates and all these things are hopefully a thing of the past by then,” he said. “Because you can’t have a festival and everybody down there having to wear a mask and you’re trying to have a beer garden and everything else.”
The committee could have put the festival together in time, he said, and the rides were already scheduled for June 3-5, but there were still many of the same unknowns that canceled the 2020 festival.
“The first of June I don’t know what the criteria’s going to be as far as how many can gather at a time,” he said. “I don’t think we could meet the regulations the first of June and stay within the guidelines.”
Last year’s festival was going to feature a couple of firsts: the first use of the new pavilion as the stage at the center of the festival, and the first time for a beer garden, after the county voted to go wet in the 2019 general election.Now the committee is picking up where they left off last year, for this year.
“That was kind of what we were going to do, is just try to move with our plan we had last year because we thought we had a really good plan – and we did – and just everything derailed on us with COVID,” he said.
Despite being a fall festival versus a summer one, Wigginton said he doesn’t believe the change of season will make a big difference.
“September’s traditionally a dry month. It’s still warm the end of September, so I don’t foresee anything impeding us at that time as far as weather,” he said. “As a matter of fact it might be better weather then than it’d be at the first of June, really.”
But, he said, the city doesn’t plan on making a new tradition of having it later in the year and plans to have the 2022 festival in June.
But for this year they’re moving forward in September, hoping that restrictions will be eased enough to allow a pretty normal festival, but planning to do whatever they can within any restrictions that remain.
“I don’t want to speak for the whole committee but I would say that if we can make it happen we’re going to try to make it happen, because I know people are ready to be able to do something,” he said. “They’re sick of sitting at home.”
By Dave Taylor