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Annual festival draws large crowd amid health concerns

People of all ages gather and shop at Johnson County’s 16th Annual Sunflower Festival on Main Street on Saturday, July 11. Organizers and several booths provided hand sanitizer and/or free masks.   Photo by Meg Dickens

By Tamas Mondovics

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the annual Sunflower Festival was held in lovely downtown Mountain City on Saturday. With electrical power on Main Street finally fixed, the event saw a large crowd but few-in-number of those wearing a mask due to the current pandemic.Renee Proffitt, one of the organizers of the event, was pleased with the turnout.

“It was a great day,” said Proffitt. “I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Vendors and shoppers were happy to attend something normal in their lives and have social interaction if nothing else.”

Booths included jewelry and accessories, woodcarvings, custom facemasks, art, food, clothing, and many more, while in the political arena, a number of booths represented current local candidates running for office, including Neal Kerney, and Scotty Campbell, to name a few.

In addition to the many vendors, classic cars, live music, great food, not to mention perfect weather was the order of the day.Of course, preparation for this year’s event was not something local officials looked forward to, especially since the increase of COVID-19 cases in the region and across the nation.

Mountain City Council has reportedly received several phone calls, from residents concerned about a large gathering and the seeming inconsistency of rules and decisions, including the cancelation of the July Fourth parade and fireworks.

To maintain cooperation with current guidelines and a show of COVID-19 pandemic awareness, festival organizers incorporated several safety measures, including enforcing the spacing of vendors and booths. Wearing of protective masks was another issue but left up to each patron as a personal choice, a view that is now taking center stage across the nation, potentially changing to become a mandate or requirement for all.

“I think you’re doing a great job with what you’re doing,” Parsons said, ahead of the event. “I think it’s going to be safe. It’s one of the safest events in the state.”

The Cameron Clauson band entertains during the July 11 Sunflower Festival from the covered porch of the vacant Family Prescription pharmacy building in Downtown Mountain City. Photo by Meg Dickens