Some concerned about COVID-19 spread amid 100th Fall Festival

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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – The 100th Fall Festival is making its big return this year after being canceled due to the pandemic in 2020.

There were still some hiccups with the festival – including booths dropping out – and a lack of volunteers and even some of the food. 

The West Side Nut Club has incorporated several new safety protocols – like this hand sanitizing stations this year to make sure everyone can have a good time while staying safe. 

Booth 22 – The St. James United Methodist Church – has been serving up a food staple at the festival for 45 years. 

“It’s amazing to see how many people have come up to say they have missed our corn fritters and we have had great business already this morning,” said volunteer Carol Peckenpaugh.

But some other booths did not make the trip to Franklin Street this year. The pandemic forced 28 booths to drop out of the festival – but those volunteers who still showed up say they are dealing with shortages of food and staff. 

“The food supply originally was not good, we didn’t get our little packets of syrup, because we are using regular syrup now, but otherwise I think we are doing pretty good but otherwise the prices have gone up,” said Peckenpaugh.

Monday morning saw its traditional initial surge of people show up for the festival.  Nut Club officials say they are doing everything they can to ensure a safe and fun event.

“We have noticed the crowd sizes are pretty decent on a Monday,” said Publicity First chair Brian Woods. “It does look as if everyone is practicing social distancing and we encourage that wherever possible.”

Our Eyewitness News cameras saw no masks and little to no social distancing, but still the Nut Club says less booths this year may mean more safety.

“What it has done for us, maybe is open some bigger gaps, maybe on the streets with those approximately thirty booths gone that allows bigger gaps to walk through the booths,” Woods said. “It looks like it’s working well for the patrons right now.” 

The Fall Festival is not the first major gathering of large crowds this year.

Eyewitness News Ange Humphrey asked Vanderburgh Health Officials if there has been a spike following other recent events

“It’s hard to say because our Fall case numbers have been consistently going up, so to say if there is cause and effect I don’t know if I can,” said Lynn Herr from the Vanderburgh County Health Department. 

Officials are urging anyone coming to the Festival to please try and social distance and just use your best judgement.

“We understand there are still going to be a lot of people on the streets, but we are trying to take the necessary steps to help with that,” Woods said.The Fall Festival runs through Saturday. For a full schedule click here.

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