COVID-19-related safety protocol has been announced for 2021-22 season shows at Wilkes Community College’s John A. Walker Community Center in Wilkesboro.

Precautions for the 2021-22 season resulted from consultation with the Wilkes County Health Department and staff of similar venues, said Tabitha Hudler, Walker Center director as of Oct. 1.

Hudler and Ted Hagaman, Walker Center director the prior 21 years, discussed safety protocol for the 2021-22 season in a recent interview. Hagaman is retiring next fall, allowing him to remain at WCC to assist with the transition.

Except when seated for dining in the Lakey Ballroom, masks be worn at all times in the Walker Center in accordance with WCC’s campus-wide policy requiring masks while indoors.

Masks must also be worn while riding a Walker Center shuttle bus to and from parking.

Hand sanitizer stations will be at every entrance door in the Walker Center, including auditorium entrance doors. “Everyone should sanitize their hands before entering the auditorium or the Lakey Ballroom,” said Hudler.

Hudler said all volunteers handing out programs and scanning tickets must wear gloves, in addition to masks. All tickets for Walker Center events will be scanned.

“We will not offer a meet and greet with artists after the shows and we ask that attendees exit the facility as soon as an event is over to reduce congestion,” she said.

Fresh air flow into the Walker Center has been ramped up and the auditorium and ballroom will be sanitized after every large gathering.

Hudler noted that the safety protocol is subject to change based on state and local public health directives.

“We respectfully request that anyone who has recently been exposed to COVID or is experiencing COVID symptoms not attend a performance at the Walker Center,” she said.

Hudler said the safety protocol was shared with Walker Center season and individual show ticket holders in correspondence last week.

Hagaman noted that the Walker Center is a member of the N.C. Presenters Consortium, which he said facilitates discussion with representatives of similar venues. “Very few (such venues) have been open until now” after closing at the start of the pandemic in early 2020, he said.

The Walker Center season opens Oct. 22 with a musical tribute to Merle Haggard by his sons, Ben and Noel Haggard. Country artist EmiSunshine will also perform that night. The music starts at 7:30 p.m.

This is the same show scheduled in mid-March 2020 but cancelled as part of initial unprecedented steps taken statewide to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 early in the pandemic.

Except for performances during MerleFest, the season opener on Oct. 22 will be the first performance in the Walker Center since Jan. 1, 2020.

Contact the Walker Center Box Office at 336-838-6260 or to purchase tickets or for more details on performances, events and hospitality services. Visit the Walker Center online at walkercenter.

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