In the midst of this pandemic, we are in an uncertain time where no one really knows if we should go back to a normal schedule. Some festivals, like Charlotte Pride and Charlotte SCREAM!, chose to reduce or cancel this year’s celebration. Others, like the Carolina Renaissance Festival and the NC State Fair, are still going as planned.
And Party in the park, the annual celebration of art, food and community that has taken place in Charlotte’s Freedom Park since 1964, returns this weekend after last year’s coronavirus hiatus. Last year was only the second time in 57 years that the festival has been canceled. The other came when Freedom Park was being renovated.
“We were even open during Hurricane Hugo weekend when Hugo passed in ’89,” said Mark Boone, chairman of the festival board.
Boone said his board has spent the past 18 months considering whether an outdoor event can be safely hosted during a pandemic. They concluded that he could – with some extra precautions.
This year, about half of the typical number of vendors will be onsite – around 120 instead of the usual 200.
“What this has allowed us to do is create a wider path for people to move around Freedom Park and alleviate some of the bottlenecks people typically encounter in the park,” he said. Boone said.
Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris said the county has worked with organizers to make the festival as safe as possible against COVID.
“There were specific recommendations on the things they shouldn’t be doing,” Harris said. “Make-up: No. Because you have to take your mask off, and no one is going to want to cover that pretty face after you paint it.”
On a sunny weekend, around 100,000 people can filter through the festival, Boone said. But this year ? He’s not sure what to expect. Still, safety measures have been added, such as not running shuttles to the offsite parking lots they typically operate, there will be plenty of hand sanitizer at the festival and social distancing is encouraged. Vaccines are not compulsory.
“We ask people to be aware of their surroundings and to use common sense,” said Boone. “So if you can’t be socially aloof, consider using a mask. We strongly encourage it.
Boone and the rest of the Festival in the Park board are just happy that their annual event is back.
“We really missed this annual fall tradition last year,” he said. “And it was really hard to put our operations on hold overall in 2020. So to bring 120 performers back to the park, to bring back three performance stages and our food dealers, it’s going to be great to have the tradition back. annual fall. in our community.
– Nick from the WFAE Channel contributed