Over the weekend, on July 17, officials with the Black Gold Festival Committee confirmed that the plans for the 2020 Black Gold Festival have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The planning for the festival, said Terry Feltner, chairman of the Black Gold Committee, had been ongoing for months, and many of the board members are very sad to see the event canceled, she said, especially since this was going to be the festival's 40th anniversary.
“We had been meeting for a couple to three months trying to get everything lined out. We had talked with city and county officials, and at that point, we thought everything was going to be okay,” said Feltner. “We had made arrangements for a lot of things to not be here — inflatables, we weren't going to have them, just a lot of things,”
Feltner said the plan was to have booths and attractions spaced out to allow for social distancing.
“We noticed all the other festivals were canceling, but at that time our numbers weren't that bad here,” said Feltner.
Feltner said members of the Black Gold Festival Committee met with health department officials a few weeks ago and asked for recommendations and advice to hold the festival. KRDHD officials, said Feltner, provided the committee with stipulations and guidelines to follow, and the committee then wrote and submitted a plan of action detailing how they planned to handle the festival. The committee had recently announced that the theme for this year's Black Gold Festival was going to be “Raised on Soup Beans, Cornbread and Black Gold,” and was scheduled for Sept. 17-19.
On Friday, the committee received a notice from their application to the state stating that it was recommended for the county not to hold the festival during the pandemic.
“No one was any sadder than we were to have to cancel it,” said Feltner. “It was a very hard decision, because this was our 40th festival and we had plans for a big event, but with all the numbers going up the way they were we just didn't want to be a part of making those numbers increase even though we would have done everything we could have possibly done, you can't regulate every person that attends. We just felt like it was in our best interest and the community's best interest to go ahead and cancel.
“We were concerned that people would come and they'd be so excited to be out and doing something that they wouldn't abide by all the regulations,” Feltner continued.
Although the committee will not have the revenue that could have been earned from this year's festival to go towards next year's event, the committee is hopeful to have a large celebration next fall. Some of the donations and funds raised for this festival will be saved for next year, she said, and the committee will have to try to raise more funding as well.
The committee, Feltner said, is already planning for next year's event, which will keep the theme intended for this year's, “Raised on Soup Beans, Cornbread and Black Gold.” The organization, she said, planned on having fireworks for this Black Gold, but they will be saved for next year's event, as well.
“We will just celebrate bigger next year,” said Feltner. “Hopefully all this will be behind us and we can all have a good time.”