Loudon's Riverfest a go for next month

Jared Farmer, from left, Carlie McEachern and Bart Watson participate in a hot dog eating contest during the 2018 Riverfest.

After having to cancel the Fourth of July fireworks show due to COVID-19 concerns, Loudon’s Riverfest celebration is scheduled for Aug. 22 at Legion Park.

Mark Harrell, Loudon Parks and Recreation Department director, made the announcement at the July 13 Loudon City Council and Loudon Utilities Board workshops.

“We are going to kind of scale it back a little bit and not have as many vendors, so we can properly space people out,” Jeff Harris, Loudon mayor, said.

Food trucks are typically cut off at 30, and other vendors are cut off at 50, Harrell said. Food trucks this year will be cut off at 20, and other vendors will be cut off at 20. The goal is to keep everything at least 40 feet apart, so some trucks may even be placed in the road.

“I feel like this year the people are starving for activity, and it’s fairly safe to be outdoors when people are doing the correct thing and wearing masks and keeping social distanced,” Harrell said. “This area, it’s hard to be right up on top of people right here. The water is pretty safe. … You can see the fireworks from all over town, so we’ll have folks all over.”

Harris said people should do what makes them feel comfortable, including wearing a mask if necessary.

“We will at least do the firework show,” he said. “That’s the plan, but with (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) changing, and the pandemic changing on a daily basis, we’re going to do what we feel is safe. If it’s a firework show versus protecting lives, we’re going to protect lives first. As it rolls closer, we can still cancel the show and maybe do a Christmas show. Our plan right now, last resort, we would still do the fireworks and have everyone sit in the neighborhoods and watch the fireworks.”

Councilman Tim Brewster asked Harrell during the city council meeting if making the show longer than 20 minutes was an option.

Harrell said he would like to keep the show about the same length.

“We would honor that if that’s what all the council members wanted to do,” Harrell said.

The K9 demonstration and hot dog eating contest will not be held. Harrell said it is not fair to risk the health and safety of residents by asking them to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a large crowd.

Another missing piece of the event will be the “kiddie section.”

“In the past, we’ve had probably eight to 10 things from the bounce house to water events,” Harrell said. “We just will not be able to operate those this year. We do plan to offer the firetruck, which is called the wet zone. The firetruck will come by every 15 minutes, and the kids will play around in that, but they don’t get up against each other, and they don’t have to worry about masks. We’ll keep the kids cool but we probably won’t have any activity for them.”

Harris said the event will end in fireworks in honor of Fourth of July’s cancellation.

For more information, visit www.loudonparks.com.

“We’re looking forward to hosting it unless things get worse or change, we’re going forward with the plans to have it,” he said. “… We are going to end the night with a fireworks display, which we are excited about because we didn’t get to have one on Fourth of July, so we’re putting everything toward Riverfest this year to end the celebration that way.”