TONTITOWN, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – The Tontitown Grape Festival makes a return for its 122 year in the midst of another COVID-19 surge, but a few towns over is a much different story for another summer tradition.
Communications Director Dana Schlagenhaft said Downtown Bentonville Inc. chose to cancel Bentonville’s First Friday event for the month out of caution with COVID-19 cases on the rise.
“This decision was not easy,” she said. “It came out of a lot of conversations and looking at numbers coming out of our local hospitals.”
Meanwhile in Tontitown, the 122-year tradition continues after having to cancel last year due to COVID-19.
Chairman Blake Ceola said at the point the event was planned for this year, there was no indication COVID-19 cases would be back on the rise at the time at the event.
“When we make the decision to put on the Grape Festival, it has to start months in advance, so we were already down the process,” he said. “At the time, everything looked fine with Covid in the area so we thought we were in good shape. In the recent weeks, we’ve seen the numbers spike but we’ve committed to putting it on.”
Ceola said precautions will be in place to still keep people safe.
“We’ve added some extra seating outside, we’ve reduced our seating in the dining hall for our spaghetti dinners, we’ll have all our volunteers the help in the dining hall wearing masks, and we encourage anyone who’s coming into eat to wear your mask as well,” he said.
In addition, a vaccine clinic will be available at the festival from Thursday-Saturday.