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Seymour businesses will miss out on boost from canceled Apple Festival

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 8:59 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - For the first time in nearly 50 years, a popular fall festival in the Ozarks is canceled. The Seymour Apple Festival has been drawing crowds to the small town since 1973, but not this year, because of the coronavirus.

Every year, the square in small town Seymour becomes a hub of activity. The Apple Festival is normally the second weekend in September with live music, food and craft vendors and traditional treats.

“There’s lawn chairs all over the square, there’s people on all four sides of the square,” said Stephanie Essary. “It’s just a packed house.”

Stephanie Essary opened her cafe and bakery, Steph’s Place, last year during the Apple Festival and saw her business take off. She was looking forward to a repeat this fall.

“During these times, you have to do what you can and I feel like the Apple Festival really would’ve brought people to my small business,” Essary said.

Instead, the square will stay quiet. Dan Wehmer helps plan the festival with the Merchant’s Association and said the decision to cancel was a difficult one.

“There’s no other event in our community that brings more dollars to our town, without a doubt,” Wehmer said.

Wehmer said the Apple Festival draws dozens of vendors and up to 30,000 guests to the small town. He said the square’s size makes social distancing physically impossible.

Wehmer said the planning committee also had concerns for their volunteers.

“A majority of them are 60 and older. In order for our insurance to be effective, following CDC guidelines, they’d all have to mask up,” he said.

He said doing so in the late summer heat could create safety hazards. Wehmer said another major risk lies in the fact that people from across the country attend the festival every year.

“What we’re doing is we’re introducing this festival to people from multiple states. They’ll come, there’s no doubt about it. We’re not certain of what’s coming in,” he said.

Wehmer said the cancellation will hurt local non-profits, too. He said more than 10 school groups also work the event as fundraisers.

Wehmer admitted he did not want to cancel the event due to the economic boost it gives the community, but said it was likely the right call to protect everyone who lives there, like Essary.

“They want to keep our small town safe, they want to keep our kids safe, and obviously that’s so hard to do when stuff like this happens,” Essary said.

Essary said the small town businesses will find ways to flourish without their festival. Her bakery will be making traditional festival treats like corn dogs, apple cider slushes and pies during the week in September that it would normally be making them for the festival.

Wehmer said the planning committee hopes to have the event like normal next year.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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