• Last modified 650 days ago (Aug. 13, 2020)


Art in Park axed; Old Settlers, too?

Staff writer

A decision whether to cancel Old Settlers Day will be made today after city officials Monday canceled Art in the Park, which had been scheduled two weeks before Old Settlers Day.

Chris Mercer, Kiwanis president, said the club’s board, members, and members of the public have discussed whether to have the event, but no parade theme has been selected and no plans have been made for a traditional meal at Central Park.

“Everyone is in a holding pattern,” Mercer said.

He’s heard opinions on both sides. Many have said that because the event is outdoors, it should not be a problem.

Classes won’t cancel reunions.

“At this point, I’ve got floods of people asking what the problem is,” Mercer said.

Although parks and recreation director Margo Yates wanted to have a modified two-day Art in the Park event next month, city council members Monday shot down the idea.

“We’ve already planned a different layout because of COVID,” Yates told council members.

Vendor tents would have been spread apart, a large tent for everyone to gather would have been eliminated, and no food vendors would have been allowed, she said.

She said 55 vendors from 24 different towns had signed up.

“We just believe people have the right to make up their minds whether to attend our event or not,” Yates said.

Mayor David Mayfield asked how many people Yates expected to come for the event. She said she would expect attendance to be “way down” because arts shoppers could not attend festivals in both Marion and Hillsboro the same weekend.

Hillsboro last week canceled its annual Arts and Crafts festival, scheduled for the same weekend as Art in the Park.

County health consultant Don Hodson and county health administrator Diedre Serene sent city administrator Roger Holter an email discouraging both Art in the Park and Old Settlers Day.

“Large gatherings of that magnitude should not really happen in my mind,” Hodson said. “There would be people from a wide variety of communities, many of whom will simply not be inclined to follow any advice regarding physical distancing or masks.

“Even though it is usually a big boon to the community, I think having such a large crowd in our community would most likely lead to an event cluster that might take lives of some of our vulnerable. It is not an event for just young people either, which makes it even higher risk.

“I would have to reluctantly advise against it. Same with Old Settlers Day unless things get a lot better in the next couple of weeks, but they probably won’t because people are not masking up at the required 80% or more to suppress the numbers.”

Serene added that while the county had no official limits on gatherings, she agreed that a gathering with a potential of several hundred to several thousand people should be discouraged.

“Please consider the health and well-being of not only Marion residents but the individuals potentially attending the event,” Serene wrote.

She suggested developing an alternative such as a virtual market, at which people could make purchases online.

Yates said another event, Park it and Market already had been canceled. She said she was frustrated by “conflicting information” on COVID-19.

“Yeah, but we have to rely on Dr. Hodson,” councilman Ruth Herbel said.

Last modified Aug. 13, 2020