TONTITOWN, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Tontitown Grape Festival has been going on for over 120 years. It all started as a picnic to celebrate the harvest and has grown to a large carnival affair. Now many people are expected to come out to the festival so you do want to take certain precautions.
This event is put together by volunteers, who are members of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
Chairman, Blake Ceola says it is a family-friendly festival. He adds the big highlight is the spaghetti and fried chicken dinner. The pasta is handmade by the volunteers and the sauce is cooked fresh daily.
Ceola says for some families this festival is an annual tradition.
“It’s a homecoming for a lot of people. People who have moved away that grew up here, they always seem to migrate back to make it for the festival… and you get to see some faces that you haven’t seen in a while, especially this year being two-year absence. We are excited to see everybody come back out and just have a good time,” said Ceola.
The festival was canceled last year due to the pandemic but it’s back. Organizers tell me that they did make some changes to the festival because of the increase in COVID-19 cases in the area to make it safer for everyone attending.
Ceola says it takes months of planning to put the annual Tontitown grape festival together. At that time, he says COVID-19 cases were down but that has changed so they are putting some safety measures in place.
For starters, guests and all of their volunteers must wear a mask indoors. There’s also a capacity limit inside.
Folks are encouraged to eat outside where they’ve added more seating.
“Luckily all of our stuff is outside, so you can go inside and eat spaghetti if you want but we have a takeout window, we have outside seating, all of the rides are outside, the entertainment is outside and we have that working in our favor,” said Ceola.
Local health leaders do recommend you to wear a face-covering outdoors in crowded spaces because of the high level of transmission in the region.
There are several hand wash stations and hand sanitizers throughout the event. There will also be a vaccination clinic here hosted by UAMS at the event from Thursday through Saturday
Health Experts stress everyone celebrates safely since we are at a critical point in the pandemic.