Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald-Star
Socially distancing will be practiced, but so far, the annual Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival will go on as planned for Aug. 28-30, 2020. Many other events however – like the Main Street Arts & Crafts Festival in June and the All-Class Reunion in July – will not take place this summer. Some, but not all, Fourth of July events have also been canceled.
By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – With all of the precautions still being recommended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, many annual summer events held in and around Hot Springs are being canceled or postponed including the Arts & Crafts Festival in June, Hot Springs High School All-Class Reunion, along with some but not all of the Fall River Fourth of July Celebration. One event currently still taking place, but being altered to allow social distancing, is the Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival in August.
“It is very disappointing that so many events have had to be cancelled or postponed due to COVID-19,” said Olivia Mears, Executive Director of the Hot Springs Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber Board of Directors had a long discussion about upcoming events and what the best course of action would be. Regarding the July 4th Celebrations, we heard that the Firecracker Races might still be able to take place, but we had information from Rotary that they would more than likely cancel the street dance and the 4th of July Parade. We have not yet asked the City if they are holding fireworks this year.”
Also planned to take place over the weekend of the Fourth of July in 2020 was Hot Springs’ All-Class Reunion, which has been historically held every 10 years but that has now been moved to Fourth of July weekend in 2021.
“The decision to postpone the All Class Reunion was a difficult one,” said Stacey Martin who is the President of the HSHS Alumni Association. “While health concerns were partially responsible for the decision, a greater factor was the number of volunteers and planners who informed us that, regardless of the status of the health crisis come July, they would be unable to attend due to financial difficulties. It is our hope that by 2021 the health and financial situations will have stabilized allowing for maximum Alumni attendance.”
In deciding to cancel the Chamber-sponsored Fourth of July events, Mears said they looked at the Firequacker Duck Race and realized it couldn’t be held safely when considering the recommended COVID-19 precautions.
“Many people gather in the water and at the finish line, so maintaining social distancing would be difficult,” she said. “Another challenge we faced with the Duck Race was being able to sell enough tickets to cover expenses and prize money. We need to sell a minimum of 700 tickets to cover costs. We sell 80 – 90 percent of our tickets at the Main Street Arts and Crafts Festival and with that festival not taking place in June, we lost our major ticket selling opportunity. The Community Picnic also posed a problem as we rely very heavily on our volunteers, who are mainly seniors and we could not ask them to put themselves at risk at a crowded event.”
Mears said the Chamber is leaving open the possibility of having both the Duck Race and Community Picnic later in the year, however – possibly the race in conjunction with the Balloon Festival in August and picnic with some other fall-related event. “We hope to hold the Wine Walk event in the fall,” she added.
At least one July event that has been planned for sometime and is still taking place near Hot Springs is the annual Buffalo Gap Blowout. According to Terry Kaiser, the current plan is to proceed with that event on Saturday, July 11, which will include a parade, street dance and vendors. Anyone interested in securing a free vendor space is asked to call Terry at 605-490-5947.
One other July event Mears mentioned was the Earth Day Rummage Sale, which has been moved to July 18.
“At this stage, the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival will still take place from August 28-30,” Mears did say. “We might not utilize Western Horizon’s Walk-in Balloon this year, just as a precaution, but we are planning events in Centennial Park. Even if other elements of the festival cannot take place, we are confident that we will still be able to hold the balloon launches at the Airport as there is enough space to maintain social distancing.”
Mears added that others groups are also looking at holding some new events in conjunction with the balloon festival this year as well.
“We really wish that things could get back to normal very soon, but where events are concerned, safety and health is of utmost importance,” she added. “Please check out the hotsprings community calendar.com or sign up for ‘Springtides’ the Chamber’s weekly email that has the most up to date information.”