“It doesn’t feel like summer” | Fun Fest cancelled for first time in 40 years

Local Coronavirus Coverage

KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this week looks much different in Kingsport.

Friday, July 10, Fun Fest would have kicked off and run through the 18th. It’s a tradition decades in the making, that unites family, friends and the entire community in a nine-day festival, shutting down part of Fort Henry Drive. It is a time for food, games, activities, crafts and a fan favorite, the live music line-up.

But as social distancing remains a top priority, the festival that brings everyone together, had to be cancelled.

“It’s very strange, I mean it’s the first time in 40 years,” said Colette George, past chair of Fun Fest and current vice mayor of Kingsport. “It doesn’t feel like summer, it doesn’t feel like July, it doesn’t feel like half a year. It’s like all the things you mark your year by have been gone.”

The decision to cut the festival was a tough one, but necessary for the board.

“You have to think, is it more important the safety of your community or is it more important to have a festival?” said George.

For Jud Teague, director of Visit Kingsport, the community will miss their annual tradition, but has been understanding amid the big change.

“The majority of the reaction was positive, that we were making the right decision for safety and the spread of the virus,” said Teague.

Teague says this is an impact that goes beyond just missing out on the fun; there is a financial impact on the city as well.

“There are a lot of restaurants, grocery stores, that will miss out on that effect this year. Somewhere between 2 and 3 million dollars,” said Teague.

In the bigger picture, it is not just Fun Fest.

“This spring we have lost all of our sporting events, baseball, softball, and Racks by the Tracks. It’s a huge impact to our community, somewhere in the 20 million dollar range for this spring,” said Teague.

The impact of the loss of all of these events is that the hotels are empty.

“All of our tourism, it’s heads in beds. When you don’t have these events and you’re not bringing in people to the city and you’re not bringing in people to spend money, yes there is an impact,” said George.

That is why she says the city recently passed major budget cuts to make up for the loss in revenue.

Looking ahead, the Fun Fest board is planning ahead for 2021: hoping the “comeback” will make for the best festival in 40 years.

In lieu of the festival, board members say to watch for some family-friendly activities on their website all next week.

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