Harvest Festival 2020 will go on—but it will be different from previous years. The Steelville Area Chamber of Commerce held a special meeting on Tuesday, June 23, to discuss the annual event in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and decided to press on with plans for the festival, while recognizing changes would most likely have to be made for the activities.
In recent years, Harvest Festival in Steelville has included events each day of the week following Labor Day in September. On Tuesdays, there has been a family night on Main Street, sponsored by the Steelville School District, including games and activities for children, in addition to a car show. On Wednesday evening, the annual Gospel Sing has been held at the Meramec Music Theatre. Thursday night featured the Harvest Festival Queen Pageant. A Chamber barbecue has been offered on Fridays for lunch, and the Ozark Trailblazers Rodeo has been held on Friday and Saturday nights. The Harvest Festival Parade on Main Street has taken place on Saturday, and the week has concluded with a Community Wide Church Service at the Steelville Community Park on Sunday evening.
At the special meeting, Chamber member Dana Richter reported the Ozark Trailblazers have voted not to hold their annual rodeo during the Harvest Festival week in September, and that led to further discussion on what events could continue.
Part of the concerns were new guidelines issued from the health department for any vendors who want to serve food at the events. Typically, vendors and organizations offer food service at several of the events throughout the week, but a new health department licensing requirement would cost those groups more.
Harvest Festival Queen Pageant Chairperson Cheryl Wilkerson expressed concerns about holding the pageant because of the close contact among the candidates and organizers. She also questioned holding a pageant if that would be the only Harvest Festival event for the year.
Wilkerson asked Tiffany Troutt, who has assisted her with the pageant for a number of years, her opinion. Troutt responded she would be fine with either the decision to hold the event or not, noting that she wasn’t as concerned about illness because of her age and health, but agreeing that the group involved is in very close proximity to one another.
Chamber member and parade chair Becky Simpson suggested moving forward with plans for the festival, perhaps without food service options. She noted there are currently no restrictions for gatherings, just the encouragement to continue social distancing. Anyone who chose to attend would be doing so at their own risk.
Simpson expressed her desire to do something for the community. “With everything that has been canceled, it’s terrible we can’t provide our community with something,” she said. “If we could maybe have portions of it, it would still be good to do.”
She recognized there were portions that might not be able to happen, acknowledging Wilkerson’s concerns about the pageant, but felt there were still parts of the annual event that could be held.
Richter agreed, “We’ve canceled a great deal,” she said.
The group also discussed the Chamber barbecue, which serves as a fundraiser for the organization. That event has been conducted by Peoples Bank, and Troutt, who is an employee there, noted, “If there’s a way to do it safely, I don’t foresee the bank not doing it, but it’s not fully my decision.”
Chamber President Tamra Cape concluded, “I think what we should do is we should go ahead with Harvest Festival and do what we can safely and within the guidelines of the health department and state.”
Simpson noted the Chamber would need to contact each entity involved in organizing the different events and determine if they wanted to move forward with their portion, and how best to do so.
Chamber members at the meeting voted to move forward with the planning for the fall event.