Small events pop up to fill canceled festival season

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

The county’s biggest festivals of the year have been canceled, but there will still be opportunities for fun this festival season.

Events like the Strassenfest, the Ferdinand Folk Festival and Christkindlmarkt — all of which attract thousands of visitors to Dubois County each year — are all off, but smaller events are popping up to fill the void. And that’s fine, Dubois County Health Department Interim Administrative Director Shawn Werner said, as long as event organizers follow guidelines in the Back on Track Indiana plan from Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana State Department of Health.

“As long as the governor’s guidelines are being followed, the [Dubois County] health department is not limiting those events,” Werner said.

The state is currently in stage 4.5 of the five-stage Back on Track Indiana plan, which allows for gatherings of up to 250 as long as social distancing, crowd monitoring and sanitizing guidelines can be followed. The governor said Wednesday that gatherings over 250 people would need approval from a local health department.

Visit Dubois County put together a guide to help event planners account for the guidelines, which can be found at https://visitduboiscounty.com/event-planners/.

It’s only been a few weeks since gatherings of 100 people or more were allowed to resume, but small festival-type events have already sprung up. Over the Fourth of July weekend, St. Benedict’s Brew Works in Ferdinand hosted the Deo Gratias Beer Fest, and the Schnitzelbank is planning the Schnitz Fest for the end of July. The City of Jasper hosted the first Downtown Chowdown — a monthly event for food trucks and mobile vendors — on the Courthouse Square last week.

For the Deo Gratias Beer Fest, St. Benedict’s Brew Works owner Vince Luecke estimated that about 150 attendees filled the outdoor areas around the brewery on the grounds of the Monastery Immaculate Conception.

“A lot of the beer festivals had been canceling for the year,” Luecke said. “We wanted to offer people something.”

Holding the event outside facilitated social distancing, and although organizers didn’t require facial coverings at the event, they were encouraged. Prizes were even given out for the most creative face covering.
Overall, Luecke said people kept their distance and the event went well.

Downtown Chowdown organizers also said attendees observed social distancing on their own, and Lisa Bower, Jasper’s mayoral administrative assistant and a member of the planning committee, estimated that about half the people in the crowd wore facial coverings.

“We did strongly recommend facial coverings,” she said. “Of course, we couldn’t require them, but we did interviews and social media posts suggesting it.”

Downtown Chowdown organizers planned to host the first of the monthly events in May following the passage of a food truck ordinance in the city, but canceled it due to COVID-19. Once the reopening guidelines loosened enough for the event to continue, organizers put the event back on the calendar, albeit with some adjustments to their plans. The picnic tables and giant tic-tac-toe, Jenga and Connect Four games were nixed.

Overall, Bower said the event went well, and vendors and attendees alike are excited for next month’s event, set for Wednesday, Aug. 12.

“I think people enjoyed socializing again, even while doing social distancing,” Bower said.

When news hit that the Jasper Strassenfest was canceled this year, Alan Hanselman, owner of the Schnitzelbank Restaurant, and many others were disappointed.

“We understood why they had to do it,” Hanselman said. “There was just no way to monitor the crowd.”

Still, Hanselman and others wanted to find some way for a German-themed event — a hallmark of the Jasper summer — to go on. That led to Schnitz Fest, an event hosted by the Schnitzelbank Friday, July 31, and Saturday, Aug. 1.

As Hanselman and his staff planned for the event, they hoped to include a beer garden and live entertainment, but those plans halted recently due to the increase in positive cases in the county. Now, Schnitz Fest will feature the Schnitzelbank's annual German buffet and outdoor seating. Guests are asked to consider wearing a facial covering and to use the hand sanitizer that will be available.

It's not the event the Schnitzelbank hoped to host, but Marketing and Sales Coordinator Kim Voegerl said organizers felt it was best for the Schnitzelbank's employees and the community as a whole if the event were scaled back.

"This has been a huge disappointment for the entire staff but we feel at this time it’s best to navigate this carefully and safely," Voegerl said via email." Offering outdoor seating and our German buffet will still provide our guests a chance to enjoy and taste some German flair."




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