The coronavirus pandemic has triggered the Blount Partnership to cancel three annual events this year. Taste of Blount slated for Sept. 10 in Maryville, the Townsend Fall Festival scheduled for Sept. 25-26 at the Townsend Visitor Center and the Best of Blount Awards booked for October will not be rescheduled in 2020, the partnership announced Friday, July 3, in a press release.
“With the latest surge in COVID-19 outbreaks, along with the enormous logistical undertaking and time frame to produce the events, we felt it was in the best interest of everyone involved from the planning committee to the vendors to the visitors to cancel these events this year,” Blount Partnership President/CEO Bryan Daniels said in a statement.
“These fall events are cherished productions that the community looks forward to annually, but the current environment is not conducive to holding large events where physical distancing is difficult,” he said.
As of Friday, Blount County had 212 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, an increase of seven from Thursday, July 2, according to the state Department of Health. Tennessee had a total of 48,712 confirmed and probable cases, which is an increase of 1,822 cases from the day before. Friday’s increase sets the state’s record high for daily new cases.
Blount Partnership Director of Communications Jeff Muir estimated the partnership usually makes about $30,000 from all three events. He noted that not only is the partnership losing money from the cancellations, but event vendors also will suffer economic losses.
“It’s a vicious circle: If we cancel something, it affects somebody else,” Muir said.
Last year, the Taste of Blount saw record attendance with more than 700 people, The Daily Times reported.
The partnership generally sells all 1,196 seats at the Clayton Center for the Arts for the Best of Blount Awards, and approximately 12,000 people usually attend the Townsend Fall Festival each year, Muir said.
The fall festival features live music, dancing and storytelling.
While the fall gathering gives residents a reason to celebrate the Smokies, the Taste of Blount gives local restaurants an opportunity to showcase their culinary offerings, and one Maryville food stand has consistently done well. Last year, Jamaica Sunrise won best main course for the ninth year in a row, and also won best overall for the seventh straight year.
Shortly after learning Taste of Blount was canceled, Jamaica Sunrise owner Rocky Williams said while the restaurant has consistently been a feature at the annual event, his business will manage without the event this year.
“It ain’t going to hurt us that much, not really,” Williams said. “We don’t really sell that much food at the Taste of Blount.”
Although some businesses may fare well without the events, craft vendors may depend on annual festivals, Muir noted. At the Townsend Fall Festival, about 50 craft vendors sell their wares during the two-day festival.
“They’re probably a lot of crafters out there who rely on these summer events to make some money,” Muir said.
The partnership, he said, was hopeful it could host these three events in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic. Staff members brainstormed ideas on how to implement adequate social distancing practices. However, the partnership could not determine a way to safely proceed and — with the recent uptick in cases — determined that hosting the events was no longer feasible.