At a special called meeting of the Dawsonville City Council on Sept. 10, council members approved the permit for K.A.R.E. for Kids to hold the 53rd annual Mountain Moonshine Festival.
After nearly a month of discussion regarding the festival and what it will look like this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, representatives from K.A.R.E. for Kids submitted an official application complete with added safety precautions and a layout of where the vendors currently signed up will be located.
During the Aug. 17 meeting of the Dawsonville City Council, Mayor Mike Eason and the council members laid out a number of safety precautions for festival organizers to abide by in order for the permit to be approved.
These conditions include hand sanitizer pumps at each vendor’s booth, with booths being located every other space in order to better social distance, mandatory face masks worn by all vendors and attendees and the use of a smaller amount of space than in the past for booths in order to keep Hwy. 53 open. K.A.R.E. for Kids representatives addressed these conditions, saying that they can abide by all conditions except for the mandatory face masks and not using Hwy. 53.
“In August we submitted a set of conditions and it looks like they answered almost all of them,” Eason said. “They don’t want to use Memory Lane due to the traffic from Food Lion and they do want to close Highway 53.”
K.A.R.E. for Kids Executive Director Tiffany Buchan said that closing Hwy. 53 is the recommendation of representatives from the Dawson County Sheriff’s Department.
“I sat down with the sheriff’s department and we discussed the use of 53 and it was his recommendation that 53 remain closed because of safety concerns,” Buchan said. “If we don’t use 53 because we’re a smaller festival, then 53 would open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and be closed during the day regardless of whether we use it or not.”
If enough vendors do sign up so that Hwy. 53 would have to be used for more vendor space, the road would be closed for the entirety of the festival. According to K.A.R.E. for Kids President Rhonda Goodwin, there were 76 vendors signed up as of the time of the city council meeting, so whether or not Hwy. 53 would have to be used as vendor space is something that would be determined closer to the festival based on vendor numbers.
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The other condition that Buchan and Goodwin said K.A.R.E. for Kids could not abide by is the mandatory wearing of face masks, citing that it would be too difficult for volunteers to enforce those in attendance to wear the masks. The council added to their permit approval that while the festival organizers can’t force people to wear masks they should post signs encouraging masks to be worn by everyone there.
“I know you can’t mandate the mask, but will y’all put signs out saying masks recommended or masks appreciated, just something reminding people that it’s a good idea to wear them,” Council Member Caleb Phillips said. “Whatever they say is fine with me, just a reminder to put them on.”
Before approving the permit, council members reinforced to Goodwin and Buchan that the Dawsonville City Council wants the festival to be able to happen just as much as K.A.R.E. for Kids does, in order to accomplish the goal of raising money to fund Christmas presents for needy children in the community.
“Let me make sure that everyone knows that nobody up here wants to stifle the mission you have and we wish you nothing but the best,” Council Member Stephen Tolson said. “There is a lot riding on our shoulders too and the safety of the city is paramount.”
Goodwin said that despite all of the discussion and changes throughout the process, K.A.R.E. for Kids does understand the need for the added precautions and knows that the city council members only want the best for the festival and the community as a whole.
“We all have a commitment to the same purpose: to provide for the needy children,” Goodwin said, “and we want to work together, so no matter what the vote is and the outcome I’m good with it.”
The council members voted unanimously to approve the permit request for the festival, which is set to take place Oct. 23 through Oct. 25.