Spoonbread Festival canceled 

Register file art 

Coronavirus has claimed another victim: the 2020 Berea Spoonbread Festival.

This would have been the 24th year for the nearly three-day event. It would have also been the celebration to commemorate the Berea Chamber of Commerce's 70th anniversary.

President of the Board of Directors for the Chamber of Commerce, Jennifer Napier, called the decision heartbreaking, but the right thing to do in the interest of public safety.

"We are just another statistic of an event that was canceled," she told The Register.

In an announcement made on social media, a post states the decision to cancel the annual event was unanimous.

The Berea Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors met on Thursday, according to their post, and the fate of the festival was one of the items to discuss on their agenda.

A motion was made to cancel the 2020 festival, and other sanctioned events. Additionally, the motion included a decision to refund vendors' registration fees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Napier said there were too many unknowns to hold the event with the date falling so close to Labor Day weekend, and school starting, which might warrant a spike in cases.

"We brainstormed alternatives that we could try to still hold it including spacing out vendors, a sanitizer station, masks -- but it came down to unknowns of that time including a spike in numbers after holidays, and we ultimately felt that the safety involved was something that led to our decision," she said.

Additionally, the board took several surveys to help in their decision making, but results were split right down the middle of whether to hold the event, or not.

But what sealed the fate of the decision also, was the question which asked if people would be willing to volunteer for the event. Only 18% said they would volunteer, with 82% saying they would not.

"It takes an army of volunteers to hold the festival," she said.

It's not only the event itself that takes so much work, but the festival's namesake as well.

"It takes dozens of gallons of milk and thousands of eggs to make spoonbread, all things that are perishable," she said. "That would be a lot of food to waste or have to get rid of last minute."

Napier said even the process of making the spoonbread takes about a month before the event is held to begin preparations, measuring things out.

Mayor Bruce Fraley said while the cancellation of the event is unfortunate for the community, it is in everyone's best interest.

"I fully support the board's decision to err on the side of caution, considering cases are spiking and have been spiking over the past few weeks, that I believe it was a wise decision to cancel," he told The Register. "It is sad for the community because it is one of our top tourism events, if not our top event."

As of now, the board has a preliminary date set for the 2021 Spoonbread Festival for September 17 through 19.

"I am confident that once we are past the COVID-19 pandemic, we can come back bigger, better, and stronger than ever in 2021 with the city at the ready to get us back up on our feet next year," Fraley said.

Last year, the festival's attendance broke records with nearly 40,000 attendees.

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