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Pioneer Festival canceled for first time

For the first time in 41 years, there will not be a Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival this year.

The cancellation was announced Friday afternoon for the annual Labor Day weekend event.

“The Pioneer Festival has been such an institution for people and a homecoming,” Winchester-Clark County Tourism Director Nancy Turner said. “It’s hard times.”

The Pioneer Festival is the third summer event to be called off, following the Beer Cheese Festival and the Clark County Fair, because of the coronavirus and the continuing uncertainty around the pandemic.

The event fills College Park for two days with crafts booths and vendors in the park and an art show in the gymnasium. Sunday night brings the concert at Lykins Park. Turner said the artists had been identified for this year, but no contracts had been signed.

“It’s a hard decision because so many of our non-profits make their money for the year” at the festival, she said.

It’s hard for the craftspeople and vendors as well, she said. One musician said he had already lost 40 dates prior to the Pioneer Festival, she said.

“The trickle down effect is sobering,” she said. “Tourism was the first and hardest hit industry. When (local governments) lose tax revenue, they have to make hard choices. As the city and county have cut their budgets, a lot of our work for the festival has been also been cut.”

Small businesses are struggling as well.

“So many of our sponsors are small businesses,” she said. “How do you ask them for money right now?”

Maintaining proper spacing is another major concern.

“How do you socially distance the crowd?” she said. “There’s so much animosity between those who take it seriously and those who don’t. How do you do it safely?”

About Fred Petke

Fred Petke is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. His beats include cops, courts, fire, public records, city and county government and other news. To contact Fred, email fred.petke@winchestersun.com or call 859-759-0051.

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