BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
WEST POINT – The West Point Community Club voted 27-10 Monday night to cancel this year’s summer festival.
A group of about 50 met under the shelter house in the park that annually hosts thousands of people munching on sweet corn and other festival offerings for four days each year in August.
Justin Mehmert, one of the chairs of this year’s event said the move was all about safety in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s rained on summer parades… and festivals, across the country.
“We weighed out the pros and cons and there was just too much risk in having it this year,” Mehmert said following the vote.
“We had to put public safety first and we couldn’t put everyone in this park and feel we were acting responsibly.”
The club voted 27-10 to not have the event this year with six other club members voting for an abbreviated fair that featured the carnival and some carry out food.
Deina Merschbrock, of Sonny’s Supermarket told the group she advocated for an abbreviated festival.
“People think that the festival just helps the bars in town, but it goes way deeper than that. I’ve heard in the past that even salons get an uptick in business.”
West Point Mayor Paul Walker, who’s a member of the club abstained in his vote, and said he was torn on the issue.
“We have to be safe, but this impacts so many people and requires so many volunteers. What if we would have went ahead but didn’t get those volunteers this year. That would have been a huge problem.”
A representative with the amusement company that brings in the carnival was on hand and said festivals across the Midwest were starting to reopen, and even some that had cancelled their plans were now reaching back out to see if the carnival was still available.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has essentially reopened the state at full capacity as long as everyone is abiding by protective measures. Lee County Speedway is now open fully for business, and the Old Thresher’s Reunion in Mt. Pleasant is still in the works on a limited basis.
But the Iowa State Fair and the Lee County Fair have both been cancelled for 2020 due to the coronavirus.
Sheriff Stacy Weber said his staff was ready to have a presence at the festival, but cautioned the group about limited supplies of personal protective equipment, and the heavy bar traffic following the carnival each night.
“That’s going to be tough to social discipline,” Weber said. “I like munching on corn and chicken as much as anybody, but these are some of thing you’ll have to address, too.”
Mehmert said the committee is learning from the coronavirus like everyone else is and 2021 should be a better year. He said planning can start taking place now to help address some of those issues should there still be protective health measures in place next summer.