Organizers hopeful large festivals and events will make a comeback in 2021

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TRI-CITIES, Tenn./Va. (WJHL)- Progress with the COVID-19 vaccine has organizers preparing to bring back some of the Tri-Cities’ biggest traditions in 2021. While plans still hinge on guidance from health departments and data, organizers are optimistic big events can come back safely this year.

Planners say it’s not official yet – but in just a few weeks the annual Chocolate Fest could take place in downtown Jonesborough.

“Plans are underway, and if we can hold something safely we will, but if we can’t, we will cancel. That’s the reality of it,” said Cameo Waters, tourism and Main Street director for the Town of Jonesborough.

If Chocolate Fest happens there will be changes to reduce crowds of people clustering together at food stops and encourage the following of mask mandates.

“In the past you’d come into the shop, you’d grab your chocolate-covered strawberry and enjoy it there while you shop. And unfortunately, we just can’t do that,” said Waters. “To safely host it this year they’ll be pre-packaged, you’ll take it home and enjoy it there.”

Waters said Chocolate Fest would likely run from February 12-14. She said more details will be announced when plans are finalized.

Still months away is Kingsport’s Fun Fest, scheduled for July 16-24.

“We’re just going to continue to be hopeful that 2021 plays out a little bit better for festivals and events than 2020,” said Fun Fest Director Emily Thompson.

Organizers would like to see the usual activities, food options, and concerts resume after COVID-19 caused last year’s Fun Fest to be called off.

“We’re looking at a normal look of Fun Fest in its 40th anniversary and truly honoring some of those traditions from the past,” said Thompson.

In Bristol, artist booking is completed and tickets are on sale for the Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Officials with the Birthplace of Country Music Museum believe the community will be in a better place come September.

“We’re very hopeful with the vaccine coming out and people doing what they need to do to get us there, that we’ll be able to have our festival,” said Leah Ross, the museum’s executive director.

Organizers say bringing back big events isn’t only about creating fun for the public. Festivals would also draw customers to downtown businesses dealing with the pandemic’s financial side effects.

“It is the lifeblood, a lot of times, for our downtown merchants because they depend on that,” said Ross.

“It’s to empower everyone to shop local. That’s still something really big we’re looking to encourage,” said Waters.

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