Georgia’s second fall festivals pandemic season has reluctant organizers


In northern Georgia, fall means crispy apples fresh off the tree, and for 50 years people have enjoyed them brewed in cider, baked into a pie, or candied on a stick at the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay.

Fall fruit festivities are set to begin on October 9, a welcome return after the pandemic forced organizers to cancel last year’s event.

Hand sanitizer stations will be set up around the festival, and visitors taking the shuttle will need to mask themselves before boarding, but COVID-19 is affecting fall traditions around Georgia in less visible ways.

Although the Apple Festival will still offer around 200 booths for attendees, that’s around 30 fewer than in previous years, and it has been more difficult to recruit volunteers to help organize the festival, said Jennifer Grimmer, president. and Chief Executive Officer of the Gilmer County Chamber. Trade.

“Each door, instead of having four people, will probably have two, things like that,” she said. “I hope the trash cans are emptied as quickly, I hope we have as many parking attendants as we need, but at the current stage, when we called all the previous volunteers, at one point we didn’t About half yes and half no, were former volunteers.

Grimmer said it looks like there will be enough people to put on a successful festival, but she’s waiting to see what the crowds will look like, both for the festival and the local agritourism orchards. Local accommodation is almost full.

“They are definitely coming, there is just a little question mark on how many of them are coming for the family, the cabin, the apple picking experience and how many of them are coming to go to the festival” , she said. “Our numbers this year are a big question mark, and I’m really interested to see what those numbers look like after the festival is over. I don’t expect it to be as busy as it once was because statistically, among people avoiding crowds, I think it will be on the decline, but who knows? “

All over Georgia, festival planners have their own question marks about the future.

Organizers of the Atlanta Dogwood Festival in Atlanta have appealed for financial support from the city’s residents after postponing their event three times since 2020 and hosting a scaled-down event in August.

“Expenses were high as the festival honored its financial commitments, but revenues have dwindled to the point that the non-profit festival, with an eight-decade history in Atlanta, is poised to become history itself. “, wrote the organizers in a statement.

Music festivals like the Wildwood Revival outside of Athens have been canceled for the year and refunded to ticket holders citing concerns about the delta’s surge.

Rallies ranging from Atlanta Pride to the Brooklet Peanut Festival near Statesboro, both scheduled for next month, have taken the same approach, apologizing to longtime fans and pledging to return next year. .

Events featuring food face their own issues – the restaurant industry has been hit hard by the pandemic and has struggled to hire enough workers to keep kitchens staffed without also hosting large events .

Two towns in Cobb County recently announced that events featuring local restaurants will be canceled. The organizers of the Taste of Marietta and the Taste of Smyrna both said staffing issues would make annual events impossible.

With cooler temperatures on the way, festival season is about to kick off, but COVID-19 and a shortage of restaurateurs and volunteers. Courtesy of the Marietta Visitors Bureau

This is the second time the Marietta event has been postponed – Taste of Marietta usually takes place in the spring but has been delayed until the fall of this year due to the pandemic.

“We didn’t want to have a festival that might stress them more trying to figure out how to manage the festival front and stand,” said Courtney Spiess, executive director of the Marietta Visitors Bureau. “We didn’t want to have the festival that we know would be half of what it normally is. We want to keep the integrity of the event as best we can, we always want to do our best. “

On the bright side, Spiess said, Chalktoberfest, a festival presented by the Marietta Cobb Museum of Art featuring artists from around the world creating awe-inspiring works of art in the streets around Marietta Square, is still expected to continue from the October 9.

“We are delighted to still have her and to be present there because it is a great opportunity to promote the arts in the region and to bring in a group of great artists, and also to introduce people to Marietta”, Spiess noted. “Luckily this isn’t a food festival so it can go on, and I know we’re thrilled with that, just fingers crossed for a super weekend full of beautiful weather.”

The economic benefit of dollars spent on tourism at events like these is sometimes overestimated, at least at the state level, said Bruce Seaman, associate professor of economics at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies in Georgia State University.

This is because the people who attend the festivals would likely be spending their money in the local economy even without the events.

But events that draw people from all over counties or states are more prominent, especially in smaller communities, where festivals can be very profitable for local business owners who welcome tourists to their stores, hotels and restaurants. restaurants.

“Some of these notable places in a local area already have a pretty solid clientele that comes regularly from the surrounding areas, but it is very true that some of the particular institutions that are very popular do extremely well for these mega events are not very frequent,” maybe they are on an annual basis, but they depend on it throughout the year to help them get out of normal downtime, ”Seaman said.

And festivals can also benefit local communities in a way that is more difficult to calculate, he added. Areas that celebrate arts, culture, and history attract new residents, which in turn create new economic opportunities.

“When there is a lively environment it makes the place more attractive, when you have attractions like that, mobile, educated, high quality workers – and you don’t have to be so educated, to be. Highly in demand, some of the most demanded professions are plumbers, electricians and carpenters. It’s not so much that people follow work, sometimes jobs follow people. It’s a complex relationship, ”Seaman said.