Emporia Main Street announced the cancellation of the 2020 Great American Market, Tuesday afternoon, marking another in a long list of casualties due to the novel coronavirus.
The market was set for Sept. 12 in downtown Emporia.
Executive Director Casey Woods said market organizers had been prepared to move forward with the event with a number of safety measures in place.
“We are obviously disappointed with the cancellation,” Woods said. “We put together a plan to space booths, encourage social distancing, require masks, and add hygiene stations to keep people safe. We know that local businesses count on traffic and sales from events like the Great American Market, and Emporia Main Street did everything we could to plan an event that could support local businesses, but we respect the decision of the Lyon County Health Department to cancel the event.”
Ultimately, Lyon County Public Health Officer Renee Hively gave Main Street a number of reasons why the event needed to be canceled, citing Kansas Statute KSA 65-119 in her decision. The statute states that, “The county or joint board of health or local health officer is hereby empowered and authorized to prohibit public gatherings when necessary for the control of any and all infectious or contagious disease.” With local and area numbers climbing, Hively said there was no other course of action but to cancel the event.
“I wish our current active cases were still below 20 as you (Emporia Main Street) had a good start to your planning process,” Hively said. “Unfortunately, we are seeing an uptick in active cases and hospitalizations, not only here but in our surrounding counties.”
Woods said the goal had been to provide an activity that kept people safe while “increasing the volume of sales for local businesses during the pandemic.”
In its 19th year, the Market is a joint effort between Emporia Main Street and its title sponsor, The Emporia Gazette. It features local stores, booth vendors and food trucks within downtown Emporia — and is traditionally one of the largest events held in Emporia through Emporia Main Street. Pandemic-related regulations have forced the cancellation of several events within the Emporia area over the past several months, including the Glass Blown Open, DK and Cinco de Mayo celebration.
“We understand and we agree with the safety measures that need to be put in place,” Woods said. “Our frustration that we voiced is that activities that are seen as ‘cluster generators’ are not being considered differently.”
Part of the frustration, he said, was that Emporia Main Street has been so supportive of the measures and guidelines put in place by Lyon County Public Health. Woods said Main Street routinely gives health officials a “heads up” on various events — something not all businesses and organizations have been doing. Organizers are looking at other avenues and options to foster support for local business, while still promoting safety.
Woods said it was “still critically important” to support local businesses — many of which rely on the increased foot traffic from large downtown events like the Great American Market, DK and Glass Blown Open.
“Our local businesses are what give Emporia a unique advantage and now is the time to continue to support those local businesses,” he said. “They are still going to have those goods and services available and those fantastic products and services available.”
Vendors that have signed up for this year’s Great American Market can contact Emporia Main Street via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for a refund of their booth rental, or they can choose to apply their rental fee to the 2021 Great American Market, which will be held Sept. 11, 2021.
Local businesses with Emporia city limits needing assistance may be eligible for some of the $132,000 of funding that was awarded to the City of Emporia through the Kansas Department of Commerce’s Community Development Block Grant COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program. The City of Emporia Small Business COVID-19 Grant will assist with immediate and anticipated needs of existing small businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19.
The application process began July 31 and runs through 5 p.m. Aug. 13.
Call Woods at Emporia Main Street at 340-6430 or Garrett Nordstrom with Governmental Assistance Services at 816-805-9183 with questions.