The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the Madisonville Tourism City Council Committee and Tourism Advisory Board to re-think the format for a popular summer musical event.
With the uncertainty of the pandemic still looming as 2021 progresses, the booking group that brings the artists into Madisonville for the annual Summer Concert Series, the Eric Group, ultimately said there were two choices for the city: either cancel the series or make the show a pod event grouping people together.
“We’ve been in a pandemic for almost a year,” said Madisonville Mayor Kevin Cotton. “All of the artists agreed to come back in 2021 with the same amount of money that we booked them for in 2020. That is still the case.”
Madisonville Public Relations Director Sara Lutz said she had spoken to many surrounding communities and said the response to entertainment events this year was about half and half.
“It truly is torn down the middle,” she said. “Henderson and Owensboro feel comfortably … to provide a safe environment. Some are proceeding with plans as normal, others have backup plans, and others have canceled events completely. We’ve been talking about how we could shift over. The pods are going to be very time consuming and a lot of manpower will be needed. The idea has also been talked about shifting these four separate events over three months into a music festival weekend.”
Another change that will happen this year is that the concerts cannot be in downtown, according to Cotton.
“All concerts will have to be at the city park in order to properly socially distance the pods,” said Cotton.
Lutz said that each pod would be 10 feet by 10 feet, with a six-foot area radius that would allow four people to be in each pod.
Lutz said the square footage at City Park would allow for 2,000 pods to be at the concerts.
The pods would require a free ticket registration to help with space, according to Lutz, and the pods would be the city’s responsibility.
“We would just be measuring out the pods, which would be labor-intensive for the city,” said Lutz.
If the concert were to be canceled altogether, the city would lose the deposits prepaid for the artists in the amount of $77,000, according to Lutz, adding that there is the possibility that extra booking costs could be charged to the city at an estimated $106,000.
Lutz also said the booking group would help reschedule the artists in other locations should the series be canceled.
“One recommendation would be if we do cancel the series, it is hard for me to come back and do a Fall Festival the next month,” Lutz said. “It is my recommendation that if we go dark, that we go dark all year except for Deck the Park because that is a socially-distanced event.”
One recommendation was to move the weekend concert festival from the July 4 weekend to Labor Day weekend to allow for more COVID-19 vaccinations to be administered to the public.
Cotton said that city officials had spoken to healthcare experts concerning the event.
“One of the things we did hear from medical professionals is that by July, if the vaccine stays on track, they do anticipate that we will be back to having some form of normalcy in our community,” he said. “Our hope is that we would have good personal responsibility, but we would do our best to keep people in their pods but it will boil down to a lot of personal responsibility.”
Following the discussion, Lutz said she would begin working with the Eric Group to check on artist availability and to make sure the weekend music festival would not be competing with surrounding area events as well.
Tourism Chair Adam Townsend said a special called meeting was possible to discuss what dates would be available for a weekend music festival.
Also at the meeting, Cotton gave an update on the playground equipment that was purchased for Mahr Park along with other projects at Mahr Park including the Event Barn.
Cotton said installation was set to begin when weather allowed.
“When we have good weather, we will get that started,” said Cotton. “The Event Barn is booming. Hopefully we will see events be able to move forward with 2021 although we know it will be somewhat different and that has been portrayed to renters.”
Cotton added that 21 weddings had been booked for the year as of Thursday night before the meeting.