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The Sandy Mountain Festival Board has canceled the annual July event, citing an inability to make concrete plans amid the statewide 'stay home' order, and no way of knowing the duration of social distancing requirements.

PMG FILE PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - The annual Sandy Mountain Festival, which wouldve taken place in July, is now canceled. The Sandy Mountain Festival and Sandy Mountain Festival Parade, scheduled for July 9-12, 2020, have been canceled, reflecting concern for public health and the need for social distancing in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The annual event brings in an estimated 20,000 visitors for the weekend event in Meinig Memorial Park, and is a major fundraiser for school and community clubs and organizations.

The festival's Board of Directors, led by President Martin Montgomery, met via video conference on Monday, April 6. Members discussed the merits of postponing or canceling the events.

Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to cancel the year's event, citing too many unknowns in the weeks and months leading up to July.

"A decision like this weights heavy on my heart," Montgomery said. "I've been involved with the festival for over 40 years and we've seen our share of issues from heat waves and flash floods, but a pandemic is nothing to mess with. We did what we thought we needed to do to safeguard our community, vendors and visitors."

Although the "stay home" order may be lifted by July, there is no way of knowing if the order limiting group sizes to 250 will remain in place, or for how long. Plus, there's the added consideration of holding an event that draws thousands of visitors to the tight confines of Sandy's Meinig Memorial Park, with no ability to observe social distancing.

In addition to the festival and parade, the board will not select a 5 Generation Court and will cancel it's amusement-rides carnival.

Board Vice President Shannon Montgomery is particularly saddened by the decision.

"The tears are flowing," she said. "It's heartbreaking to make the decision to cancel the Mountain Festival. It has been a large part of mine and my family's life for the last 47 years. Summer never starts for us until the Monday after festival.

"The Sandy Mountain Festival is my ongoing connection to my mom, Lynn Ellis, one of the founders of the festival. She is no longer with us, but this was her baby, and being able to keep this going all these years has kept me, in away, connected to her."

The Sandy Mountain Festival has operated continuously without interruption for 47 years.

While the event has been canceled, the board chose to continue funding two $1,000 scholarships for graduating Sandy High School seniors. One scholarship is award to a student interested in pursuing the arts as a profession. The other is for any graduating senior. Applications are available at the high school.

"We are canceling the festival, but students still need help with their college educations," said Lisa Snider, who serves as the festival's hospitality director.


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