WHITE HALL — White Hall Town Council voted to approve the planning of a new fall festival at its Monday meeting.
Although Mayor John Michael said no one knows what the world will look like in terms of the coronavirus pandemic come October, planning needs to begin soon if the festival would become a reality.
“We finally got started, we finally last year got started, now here comes coronavirus,” Michael said. “We don’t know what it’s going to be like. In October, there might not even be any social distancing. We are anticipating that there is no restriction, and then back off as time gets closer.”
According to Michael, this festival will be modeled after the Pumpkin Festival that took place in the town last October, but it will have several additions that will make it stand out even from other festivals in Marion County. One addition he said he wants to see is the implementation of town history.
“The 5-Mile House was located just about exactly where Hardee’s is currently. It wasn’t the Town of White Hall then, but it’s in our corporate city limits now,” Michael said. “This was a hopping place. This was the bar, this was the restaurant, this was the dance hall. This is where it was happening. We have several pictures of it, and we’d like to build our festival kind of around them.”
The 5-Mile House was so named because it was five miles away from Fairmont, Michael said, and it was the hub of activity for the area, even before it was White Hall. Seeing that this was a popular establishment, Michael said he would like to implement several aspects of the old restaurant into the festival, including dancing and live music, and the availability of craft beer and drinks.
“We don’t know how much we’re going to be able to gear towards the kids,” Michael said. “We want to add a car show, cornhole, continue music, continue food vendors.”
Alongside Michael, White Hall Town Coordinator Cindy Stover helped pitch this idea to council Monday. She agreed that although the future is uncertain, planning would need to start soon to make the festival as good as it can be.
“There might be a concern about COVID, but we still want to move forward with it,” Stover said. “If we don’t plan it now, you can’t plan something in September you want to have weeks later.”
Stover and Michael said they would like to make the craft beer tasting as safe for residents as possible, by having a roped off area for drinkers, and a breathalyzer test available on-site. On another level of safety, Michael said the festival will still advocate for guests to social distance and wear face masks.
“We’re going to practice social distancing,” Michael said. “We’re not going to mark up the parking lot... We know what it looks like. A majority of people know.”
Michael told the council he feels confident in planning the festival for October now, seeing that a testing site set up with the Marion County Health Department in the town last week had zero tests come back positive.
“There were 90 people tested here in the Town of White Hall for COVID-19 — zero positives,” Michael said.
Several council members gave suggestions to Michael and Stover on other offerings the festival could have, with some fundraising ideas put forth as well to potentially help benefit a select nonprofit.
“We may do some 50/50s and the proceeds could go to a nonprofit of some sort,” Stover said. “We’d like to sponsor something with the proceeds that we get.”
Stover said seeing the success of last year’s Pumpkin Festival, she wanted to give the residents of the town an opportunity to have some free fun in the town, because by October, many people may be itching to attend an outdoor event.
“This year, we want to add a little bit of history to it,” Stover said. “Let’s do the same thing we did last year, but let’s put some history to it.”
The council will have a workshop meeting tentatively scheduled for July 15 to talk about festival planning.