AVERY COUNTY — Avery County’s annual summer Fine Art & Master Crafts Festivals, as well as the renowned Banner Elk Woolly Worm Festival, are still on schedule as planned, according to a media release sent on April 29 from the Avery County Chamber of Commerce.

The Fine Art Festival has been relocated to Sugar Mountain Resort, in the large, paved, flat parking area below the Sugar Mountain Lodge, within walking distance to the lodge, but is not in the same location that Oktoberfest is held, according to the release.

With the move, the Chamber added that “fun amenities will be available for the public, such as chair lift rides, extreme biking, hiking, golf and discounts on lodging available for vendors and guests.”

In a provided statement, Avery Chamber Board of Directors President Hallie Tucker discussed the decision-making process to move ahead with festival plans.

“Our hosts, Sugar Mountain’s Kim Jochl, and Town of Banner Elk, has offered to host the event on their property and informed us that the events would be allowed to be held. It is optional as to whether each vendor will choose to participate based on their own circumstance and careful decision making,” Tucker stated.

Tucker added that the Avery Chamber emphasizes patrons take any and all appropriate precautions they deem necessary at their events.

“The public may use precautions while they attend as they see fit, including wearing protective coverings, hand sanitizing and staying a safe distance from other patrons of the festival,” Tucker stated. “Each person in attendance is able to make their own decisions and take all the appropriate precautions. For events to open and for business to begin to recover from this pandemic, someone has to be the first to do so. Avery Chamber of Commerce promotes local businesses and tourism, and even though it is a hard decision, we support our local businesses reopening with the proper safety measures in place.”

How the festivals positively impact local businesses that have recently suffered detrimental effects from the COVID-19 outbreak was also factored into the Chamber’s decision-making process.

“The events we host, such as the art festivals, make a large impact on our community. As restaurants and local businesses reopen, they will need their seasonal clientele to return and make purchases to help them recover from being closed for so long,” Tucker added. “Many of our businesses will struggle if there is no tourism. Although it is a heavy burden to worry over, we must support our community. We cannot guess what orders or directives may come in the next weeks and months from local, state and national authorities, but we will comply with those that do. In the meantime, we have decided to cautiously plan for the art festivals as a way to help our community and our local businesses recover.”

The Chamber noted that all funds are nonrefundable, except in the event the Chamber has to cancel the festival. In addition, space is limited for both festivals and both are juried. Vendors must provide proper weights (40 lbs. per leg), tent, table and all accessories, and that all festival application requirements are mandated, according to the release.

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