Unicoi cancels 18th Annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival amid COVID-19 concerns

Published 8:38 am Friday, April 10, 2020

UNICOI— The 18th Annual Wayne Scott Strawberry Festival, previously scheduled for May 16, has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision comes after Governor Bill Lee placed the state under a “Stay at Home” order last week because COVID cases and unnecessary traffic were both on the rise.
“The governor wants us at home, he’s made that clear,” Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch said. “And health officials are saying the coronavirus threat could last up until the summer, so it’s best for our citizens if we don’t have the festival this year.”
The Strawberry Festival is the town’s biggest event of the year and typically features more than 100 craft and food vendors, musical performances from local artists, Miss Strawberry Festival Pageant and recipe contest, as well as a kids zone filled with inflatables, pony rides and a cow train.
“This event means a lot to our residents,” said Communications and Programs Director Ashley Shelton. “So it was a hard decision to make and we know this is going to affect many of our local churches, civic groups and craft vendors that depend on the festival as a source of revenue.”
More than 10 local churches and five civic organizations use the festival as a means of fundraising, and at least four additional non-profit groups were scheduled to receive a portion of the event’s proceeds this year. Local restaurants and retailers will also be affected by the cancellation since they typically have an influx of customers going to and from the event.
“This is just a rough time for our economy,” Mayor Lynch said. “And the festival cancellation is another hit to some people’s income, but it’s in the best interest of public health and we don’t want to gamble with that.”
Vendors that have already paid for their booth will receive a full refund. If the vendor registered and paid directly through the Town of Unicoi Communications and Programs Department, they will need to contact Patricia Bennett at (423) 735-0517 or email recreationaide@unicoitn.netto begin the refund process. Vendors that registered online through EventBrite will be automatically refunded within five business days.
For information regarding the Town of Unicoi’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, email communicationsandprograms@unicoitn.netor contact Ashley Shelton at (423) 735-0317.

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