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Will the 2020 Moonshine Festival happen? K.A.R.E. for Kids considering several options for the annual event
Moonshine preview pic
Festival-goers gather for the parade at the 49th annual Mountain Moonshine Festival in Dawsonville. - photo by Allie Dean

At the Dawsonville City Council meeting on Aug. 17, city council members and representatives from K.A.R.E. for Kids discussed the upcoming 2020 Mountain Moonshine Festival and whether or not the annual event will be able to happen this year during the last weekend of October.

In her presentation to the city council, K.A.R.E. for Kids President Rhonda Goodwin said that currently the organization has plans and backup plans of how to hold the event with COVID-19 restrictions. 

“We are planning to have the Moonshine Festival, and we have a plan A, plan B and plan C in place,” Goodwin said. 

According to Goodwin, plan A would be to hold a normal, full-fledged Moonshine Festival event that has been held in Dawsonville for years. While plan B would be a “mini festival” that would be downsized from the normal festival. 

“With a mini festival, we would downsize it by not having any entertainment stages, with the reasoning that that’s where people gather,” Goodwin said. “We would also eliminate trophies for the car show, and we’d have vendors every other space so they’d be spread out.” 

Plan C would consist of representatives from K.A.R.E. for Kids selling t-shirts and raising donations for the organization, without holding the festival. 

“Basically we’d announce that we’d be on site here selling t-shirts and opening the opportunity for people to come out and make a donation,” Goodwin said. 

The money K.A.R.E. for Kids raises through the Moonshine Festival each year goes to help bring Christmas gifts to local children through the group’s Christmas season program. According to Goodwin, a concern is that the recent COVID-19 pandemic will lead to an increased need for Christmas presents but a decrease in donations coming in, especially if the festival doesn’t take place. 

“We’re really concerned about the Christmas effort this year and that the needs are going to increase because of COVID-19,” Goodwin said. “So we want to try to salvage this enough to generate some funds for our purpose.”

Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason said that he and the council have discussed conditions and recommendations for proceeding with the moonshine festival, taking into account both health and state guidelines to make sure that everyone in attendance is kept safe. 

“The event must comply with any current existing executive order at the time that the event occurs, so we want to make sure of that,” Eason said. “And because it’s going to be on city property, we would require masks for all vendors and all attendees unless they have a health condition that they can’t wear it.” 

According to Eason, it would be up to festival volunteers to make sure all attendees wear a mask, and signs requiring mask use would need to be posted. 

Other recommendations from the city include, making sure vendor booths are spaced at least 10 feet apart, making sure tables in the food areas are spaced apart and cleaned between each customer, and having a hand sanitizer pump at each booth. 

All vendors, car show drivers and volunteers would have their temperatures taken upon arriving at the festival, and the restrooms at the park would need to be cleaned every 3 hours.

The Council also recommended reducing the number of roads that are closed down for the festival, so volunteers can manage the crowds better and ensure that health guidelines are met. 

“You can only use Main Street Park, Allen Street and Memory lane for your festival, so Hwy. 9 and Hwy. 53 would remain open,” Eason said. “It’s gonna be a whole lot easier to manage it if you keep it all down here.” 

Eason told the K.A.R.E. for Kids representatives that they could accept the city’s conditions to have their event permit approved or take time to consider the conditions and come up with a better plan to present to the council. 

K.A.R.E. for Kids Executive Director Tiffany Buchan expressed concern to the council regarding the recommendations, saying that she does not believe the space allowed within the council’s conditions would be enough for the number of vendors that have expressed interest in the event 

“If we start getting more vendors, we might run out of space to put them so we would need [Hwy. 53] to close too,” Buchan said. 

Council member Caleb Phillips addressed Buchan’s concerns, asking her to get together a more solid number of vendors and how much space they will take up before the next meeting in order for the council to be able to take that information into consideration. 

“We need numbers before we meet next on how many vendors there will be,” Phillips said. “I personally wouldn’t have a problem with [Hwy. 53], but I don’t want to do all that and have 50 vendors spread out over that much space.” 

City Attorney Dana Miles also cited potential enforcement issues, saying that because Hwy. 53 isn’t city property, enforcing mask use even more difficult

Currently the event has about 50 vendors signed up, less than half of the usual 120 that are normally signed up by August. 

“Every week we have new vendors sign up, some call and say they can’t participate, and others are waiting to see,” Goodwin said. “We’re going to try to know our number of vendors for sure around three weeks out from the event.” 

Eason recommended that the K.A.R.E. for Kids should come up with a more firm number of vendors and to figure out an estimate of how much space will be needed before the city council makes a final decision on the event. 

“See how many vendors you can fit on Allen Street, Memory Lane and Main Street Park and then we’ll talk, just come up with a more firm plan for us,” Eason said. “Because it’s really just all about safety for everybody.” 

A special called meeting of the Dawsonville City Council will be held on Wednesday, Sep. 2 at 4 p.m. Council members will make the decision on the festival at that meeting.