Parke County 2020 Covered Bridge Festival canceled

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PARKE COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Parke County commissioners voted to cancel the 2020 Covered Bridge Festival.

One of the largest festivals in the state of Indiana, for more than the past 60 years millions have made their way to Parke County for the annual Covered Bridge Festival.

“It’s been a mainstay in our community for a long time and I think for the most part we like hosting the festival,” said Bruce Hartman, Parke County commissioner.

As the festival which was set to take place from October 9th through the 18th approached, Parke County commissioners say they reached out to multiple groups including business owners and vendors, among others, about hosting this year’s event while COVID-19 continues to impact the country.

“We tried to touch base with everybody. It’s gotten to the point here at the end just about I talk to I ask ‘What are your thoughts on it?'” said Jim Meece, president of Parke County Board of Commissioners.

Meece says many he spoke to expressed hope that the festival would be able to go forward.

“It’s been a guaranteed income for people for 63 years and to interrupt that is really a big step,” Meece said.

Monday, by a vote of 2-0 commissioners made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s festival, citing concerns over COVID-19.

One issue commissioners expressed would be enforcing health guidelines for hundreds of thousands of festival goers.

“To be able to social distance, to keep the six feet apart, to be able to make sure everybody was masked which is a requirement as well would have been an impossible task,” Hartman said.

Officials say as they moved towards making their decision, that they simply could not justify having the event.

“How do you ever justify to anybody that you thought that ‘Sure it’s all around the rest of the world but it won’t be here?’ That we somehow felt we would be special and it wouldn’t impact us. Even the loss of one life, how do you just justify having a festival that would cost some person’s life?” Meece said.

Meece says he feels for the non-profit organizations that depend on Covered Bridge Festival each year, and he hopes the county comes together to find a way to support the local groups impacted by the cancellation.

Commissioner Dan Collom did not vote but said he would support the commissioners’ decision.

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