Orion Fall Fest officially canceled

Mindy Carls

The Orion Fall Festival committee reluctantly decided on Wednesday, July 8, to cancel the Labor Day weekend event this year.

It would have been the 48th Fall Festival.

Meeting at the festival shed on 10th Avenue, the committee sat in socially distanced lawn chairs on the parking lot. In the absence of chairman Byron Carlson, treasurer Jerry Meyer conducted the meeting.

Orion Village President Jim Cooper, a member of the committee for more than 40 years, said the village board would like to see something happen but could not approve having more than 50 people in Central Park for an event.

“What kind of festival could we have with 50 people?” Cooper asked.

Meyer said he was not comfortable with violating the 50-person limit.

Fall Festival contracts with Bodeen Amusements, based in Bushnell, for the carnival, Meyer said, but this year the company is not staging carnivals. It’s only sending out food tents.

The festival does not owe Bodeen Amusements anything for this year, the treasurer said. Bodeen Amusements receives a percentage of the proceeds following the festival.

“How many children and grandchildren would parents take to the carnival?” Meyer asked.

Car show chairman Jim DeBaillie said he would not be staging the car show this year.

Deb Ford said she had made calls in January about tents for the arts and crafts show, but had not signed anything.

It would be difficult to run the food tent, Meyer said. Volunteers work shoulder-to-shoulder wrapping sandwiches. Anything left over, including paper plates, could not be returned to Orion IGA.

Without this year’s festival, the committee still has enough money to help people with medical bills for the coming year, Meyer said.

Deena Johnson, parade chairman, said she wants to make sure Fall Festival happens in 2021.

“You can’t believe how many people have come up to me and want to have it,” she said.

“This is not the end of Fall Festival,” Meyer said.

Contacted during the meeting, a representative of Bodeen Amusements confirmed the company was not doing carnivals this year but was looking forward to coming to Orion next year.

Going forward, the festival board needs two or three new chairmen, Meyer said.

“Even before COVID, we knew we needed new people,” Johnson said.

After the meeting, Carlson and Meyer issued a press release that said, “Being community focused, these past several months have provided several challenges for our committee and meeting CDC guidelines would be too much to overcome. We want to be safe. We want to remain healthy. We want to contain the spread of this virus so our community can move forward with less opportunities for its spread.”

Besides helping with medical bills, the festival also has set aside funds to help residents of the Orion school district who are suffering from the health-related effects of the virus. For more information, visit the Orion Fall Festival page on Facebook.