PRAIRIE GROVE -- After cancelling the Clothesline Fair last year because of covid-19 concerns, Prairie Grove Lions Club has been working hard to prepare for the 2021 event at Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park.
Casey Copeland, club president, said the organization is calling it the 2021 Clothesline Fair. The club hosted the 68th annual fair in 2019. If the pandemic had not forced the fair to be canceled in 2020, the community would be celebrating its 70th annual Clothesline Fair.
Covid cases waned in May and June in Arkansas but are on the uptick now because of a new variant, called the Delta variant. Copeland said the club has posted some safety protocols recommended by the Arkansas Department of Health for covid-19 on social media.
The club is asking anyone who is showing any signs of illness or has tested positive for covid-19 within two weeks prior to the Clothesline Fair, or has been in known contact with someone with covid-19 during that time frame, to not attend the Clothesline Fair as a vendor, guest or volunteer.
For those at the Clothesline Fair, the club is encouraging people to social distance by 6 feet as much as possible. Portable bathrooms will be cleaned daily. Hand sanitizers will be available for the public near the food vendors. Masks are optional.
The fair opens at 8 a.m. Friday for the arts and crafts vendors. The Clothesline Parade, sponsored by Prairie Grove Chamber of Commerce, will start at 9 a.m. Saturday at the middle school. From the middle school, the parade travels along Mock Street onto Buchanan Street and then ends just beyond the state park entrances.
One change for the parade is that no one will be announcing the parade entries as they travel along Buchanan Street in downtown Prairie Grove, said Dale Reed, chamber president.
Reed said entries did not have to register for the parade. They will show up at their designated areas and then the chamber will send them off. The chamber decided not to have an announcer to limit contact between chamber members and other volunteers because of the increasing covid cases.
Reed said the chamber is asking parade spectators to stand in family groups and to social distance from others, as much as possible. The chamber also is recommending parade participants wear masks, per guidance from the health department.
This year, for the first time, the Lions Club is sponsoring the arts and crafts vendors, instead of the Arts Center of the Ozarks, and Copeland has coordinated that effort. The Lions Club already organizes food vendors and the square dance portion of the Clothesline Fair.
"I'll describe it as a learning process that we'll only get better at as we go forward," Copeland said last week. "We've learned a lot. There's probably not some vendors as happy as we'd like them to be."
The fair has 105 vendors who have registered for that weekend, Copeland said, with many returning vendors and a lot of new vendors. As a comparison, the 2019 Clothesline Fair had 134 vendors registered, and the 2018 fair had 150 vendors, according to archives for the Enterprise-Leader.
Club members worked last week on placing vendors for the fair and plans to send out a finalized map to them. Copeland said the Lions Club also will provide a map on the Clothesline Fair Facebook page, so visitors will be able to find a favorite vendor.
Some of the vendors are not in their traditional spot.
"We didn't get all that information in the transition from the Arts Center," Copeland said. "We just didn't bring it over and weren't able to take account of it easily. Hopefully, people will understand it's a bounce-back year and a new year organizing it."
Because of the increasing number of covid cases in the state, Copeland said the Lions Club emailed some guidelines to craft vendors to help with safety concerns.
Vendors are asked not to provide samples to guests unless they are individually washed or prepackaged, to have hand sanitizer available for use and to routinely disinfect surfaces and objects with customer contact. It recommends using disposable gloves and face coverings while handling and/or preparing any food or beverage products and to consider rounding prices to the nearest dollar to avoid the need for coins in making change.
Copeland said this year's fair "definitely" has been more work than previous years.
"It's been an interesting, learning experience," he said, adding the club has a good team working together to coordinate and plan the Clothesline Fair.
He expects he will not get much sleep the week before the fair. This is his first time, he noted, to organize a "massive craft fair" but added, "I think once we get started, it will be fine."
Despite all the work, he said the Lions Club is glad to be able to host the festival because the Clothesline Fair is part of Prairie Grove's identity. He noted that having to cancel the event last year was disappointing to many people and restarting the tradition is very important.
"The Clothesline Fair is a 70-year-old tradition around here. So many families and friends have memories of being there, whether it was square dancing, booths and even the food."
He added, "We encourage people to come out and enjoy themselves and help get this tradition restarted and moving forward."