Due to rising COVID-19 cases in Macon County and the surrounding area, a very difficult decision has been made to cancel the upcoming 16th Annual Franklin Area Folk Festival, “A Celebration of Appalachian Heritage” scheduled for August 21, 2021, at Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center. Volunteer board members of both co-sponsoring organizations (the Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center and the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County, FHAMC), have been working diligently for many months to plan the festival so they haven’t made this decision lightly. “Our number one priority is the safety and health of our children, community, participants and volunteers,” stated Bobby Kuppers, Cowee School Board Chairman.
After consulting locally with Macon County Health Department and CDC/NC state websites, it is clear that as of today (August 10, 2021), Macon County is experiencing a high COVID testing positivity rate which is trending upward. Together, the boards worked through several scenarios in an attempt to modify the event by considering restrictions and guidelines but came to the conclusion that implementation and enforcement of those restrictions would be difficult, if not impossible, which could compromise the safety of staff and visitors. Although it was very frustrating and disappointing, all agreed that to be fair to our volunteers, participants and patrons, the best course of action would be to cancel.
Board members Claire Suminski and Anne Hyder (Chair, FHAMC) agreed that it was the right thing to do considering the situation and added that many of the children who attend the festival are unvaccinated. Physical distancing and crowd control would be difficult as 1,000 to 1,500 people usually attend including many out-of-town visitors. Former Cowee School Chair Bob McCollum voiced that “people may not agree with the decision to cancel, but hopefully they will understand why we did what we did.” Theresa Ramsey (FHAMC) added, “unfortunately, we can’t control the situation, only how we react to it.”
Board members left the meeting with the daunting task of getting the word out about the festival cancellation to all those involved, i.e., demonstrators, entertainers, artisans, vendors, and volunteers who have already put in many hours of preparation for the event. In looking forward to a time when COVID is not a concern, the boards expect to reschedule the 16th Annual Franklin Area Folk Festival, “A Celebration of Appalachian Heritage” to next August 2022. Visit FranklinFolkFestival.com for more information.