Council considers delaying start of Food Truck Friday, cancelling Easter festivities
For roughly an hour Tuesday evening members of the Euharlee City Council debated whether or not to postpone — or cancel — a number of planned events in light of COVID-19 concerns.
Although no official voting took place at the public work session meeting, the majority of council members stated they supported a proposal to push back the yearly “Food Truck Friday” festivities by at least one month.
The annual series has been held since 2014, traditionally once a month from April to September. The festivities were cancelled last year in light of the local coronavirus outbreak.
“The only way for us to eliminate risk of spreading COVID-19 is to not hold the events,” said City representative Katie Gobbi. “As Food Truck Friday is an outdoor event and it is much less active than the egg hunt, there is potential to lessen the risk of exposure involved in holding this type of event, but only with mitigation efforts to minimize those risks.”
Gobbi said the City’s event steering committee recommended delaying the start of the monthly Food Truck Friday events until June.
The two-month delay, she said, would give the City more time to evaluate the risks of possible COVID-19 variants and allow local vaccination rates to increase.
“It’ll just be overall safer for everyone to be there,” Gobbi said. “Starting in June, we should be out of the predicted surge, post-some spring travel and graduations and things like that.”
Councilman Tim Abbott raised concerns about whether the City could actually enforce several proposed safety measures at the events.
“I think you can recommend mask-wearing, if you’re going to mandate you wear a mask to get into the event I would recommend we don’t do the event,” he said. “There’s nothing legal about mandating masks.”
Nor did he display much enthusiasm for a proposal to mark off 10-foot-by-10 foot squares for family groups.
“Unless we’re actually going to have somebody there that can enforce it, I think we’re just setting ourselves up,” he said. “I think adults make decisions — if I go out, I am assuming liability by coming to a City event.”
Whether or not those policies are technically enforceable, Euharlee City Manager James Stephens said the local government remains beholden to the State mandates regarding COVID-19.
“I originally didn’t keep the boat ramp open because of items required by the governor’s executive order,” he told the council. “You’d be amazed by how many may go into a public setting and their belief system is very different and they believe their rights do not end where someone else’s begin — it’s a complicated world we live in.”
Both Abbott and Councilman Greg Free said they preferred that the event begins in May.
“If the ball tournaments aren’t cancelled, then we can’t stop this," Free said. “People are talking and they are watching, if that’s the hill you want to die on, you die on it because I’m going to die on it, too.”
Ultimately, Stephens recommended that the City move forward with plans to hold the first Food Truck Friday event on May 14.
“The June recommendation is based predominantly on giving the vaccine more time to get into the community and to let the school system come to a conclusion,” he said. “The May 14 date is such that it’s so close to the end of the school year that I’m not overly uncomfortable.”
The Euharlee City Council will resume discussions on the matter at a public meeting scheduled next month at 30 Burge's Mill Road.
In another non-voting item from Tuesday evening, Euharlee City Council members also said they supported cancelling the City’s annual Easter egg hunt at Joe Cowan Park, which would take place the first weekend in April, outright.
“This event includes a lot of close, face-to-face activities,” said Gobbi. “A lot of hands-on face painting, the egg hunt is a free-for-all, in a beautiful, wonderful way.”
She said the event has drawn as many as 1,500 people in the past. Last year’s scheduled egg hunt was cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, while 2019’s event was scrapped due to heavy rainfall.
“The special event committee members that responded, they were in support of cancelling the event this year,” she said. “One member works in a pediatric health office and she stated that more children have been contracting COVID recently than in the earlier parts of the pandemic — some recently released data from the State backs this up and shows that transmissions in schools is actually higher now.”
Gobbi also noted that the Euharlee Masonic Lodge, an organization which has donated food for the event in years prior, has not expressed an interest in participating in a 2021 egg hunt.
Stephens noted the annual event is not a budgeted item.
“We’ve always raised donations for it, it does not come out of the general fund like the Food Truck Friday events,” he said.
Mayor Steve Worthington and Councilmen Jo Turner and David Duncan said they wholeheartedly agreed with the push to cancel the event.
Free, however, said he doesn’t believe City officials should take the COVID-19 data "to heart."
“Somebody that works in the doctor’s office may see one thing, somebody who works in this doctor’s office may see something completely different,” he said. “People will tell you that Cartersville Medical Center is overran with COVID. I was in there a week ago, and I’m telling you, the E.R. was empty — it depends on where you’re at.”
Ultimately, Free said that if the City continues to cancel events he fears Euharlee will become “irrelevant” and attendee-goers will turn to other communities.
“People are craving normal,” he said. “And I feel like we’re not listening.”