There will be no Blue Springs Fall Fun Festival along Main Street this year.
Instead, the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday, the 51st annual festival will go virtual this year, dubbed the "Fall Un-Festival, Virtual Vendors & Local Food." The two-day event will be Sept. 18-19 (Friday and Saturday, as opposed to the normal three-day festival) and include a local food tour and virtual booth experience on the festival website. The website will also feature virtual artist performances. All vendor fees will be half-price.
Chamber President Lara Vermillion said that when the pandemic hit in March and some regular vendors inquired, the Chamber started to think of possible alternatives in case a regular festival wouldn’t be safely feasible. Ultimately, organizers were short on time and needed to make some decisions, not knowing what local restrictions might be in place or especially how comfortable vendors and festival-goers would be.
"There’s a lot unknown, but this festival’s 90 days out, and we need to clarify so our vendors have time and we can move forward," Vermillion said.
Knowing that many vendors and organizations depend on the festival for some crucial income, she said, "We thought this is the best way to move forward."
Food vendors will have the option of setting up a booth at their local location if possible, and the Chamber says it will assist out-of-town food vendors hoping to participate – as well as any local vendors who need help – with securing a location. Vermillion said she envisions a drive-thru model for many of the vendors.
For artists, crafters and similar vendors, Vermillion said it will be similar to a Facebook live session or a Zoom meeting with possibly several people.
"When you enter the ‘booth’ you’ll deal with the vendor directly – live," she said.
The Chamber reached out or heard back from several regular vendors about a possible virtual experience, or how feasible an in-person festival with social distancing could be. The answers on the latter ranged across the board, Vermillion said, from "absolutely" to "not without a vaccine."
One regular wild-card factor – weather – shouldn’t be in play this year, but Vermillion said that with any festival success comes down to community response.
"We’ve never done this before either," she said. "A lot of this depends on our community’s willingness to participate, like with any business."
The Independence Chamber of Commerce has not yet made a final announcement regarding its chief fundraiser, the annual Santa-Cali-Gon Days Festival over Labor Day weekend. The Missouri State Fair in August will go on as scheduled, minus the concerts. Organizers of Kansas City Irish Fest, also held on Labor Day weekend at Crown Center, announced in the spring the festival would reimagined this year "as a series of smaller, Irish-themed locally focused community experiences."