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Midway prepares for unique 47th rendition of its Fall Festival

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 10:56 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The 47th Midway Fall Festival is set to welcome thousands of people to the quaint Woodford County town amid a statewide surge in COVID cases.

Last year, the festival was cancelled for the first time since its inception. So, the town is taking steps to try and keep attendees safe this year.

“We are a city of 1,700 people,” said Grayson Vandegrift, the mayor of Midway. “There are some years when we get an estimated 15,000 people down in this little corridor behind me.”

The festival is an essential source of income for the town’s businesses and restaurants.

“Midway’s economy, for these local shops - it’s almost 80% - if not more - tourism,” said Elisha Holt, the festival’s coordinator.

But with COVID cases and hospitalizations surging, Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has issued an indoor mask mandate that will last the duration of the event.

“Indoors is where the virus really likes to spread and we want to avoid a super spreader,” Vandegrift said. In addition to the indoor mask mandate, the vendors will be spread out this year.

Spaces such as a grassy area called “the courtyard” will be used in an effort to socially distance. Mayor Vandegrift says it’s the first time in the festival’s 47-year history that it has extended beyond Midway’s Main Street.

“The majority of the businesses in midway have either asked for this or when told of the idea said, ‘Absolutely, great idea’,” said Vandegrift.

“I think it’s a great idea, that way we can keep everyone safe as possible,” said Kay Thomason, a manager at Heirloom Restaurant.

“Our community supports fighting the virus as best we can and I think most people will honor the mask - the masking and the distancing,” said Leslie Penn, who owns the Midway Gift Shop.

Because of last year’s festival being cancelled, Holt has been preparing for this weekend for more than a year.

“This year it was okay if the pandemic is still an issue, if this happens, then what are we going to do?” Holt said. “So we created as many if-then statements as we possibly could.”

Holt and Mayor Vandegrift believe it will give cover to shop owners who would otherwise be uncomfortable telling people to put on a mask.

“Yeah, we’re going to have to put on a cloth mask when we’re indoors,” Vandegrift said. “But it’s a small price to pay to keep everyone safe.”

The 36-hour mandate will run from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 p.m. Sunday. The Midway Fall Festival will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday and conclude at 5 p.m. Sunday.

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