The great many adjustments made with the rescheduled MerleFest within a matter of weeks in the interest of public health are impressive.
See the article on the front page of this issue for a full description of the precautions, but suffice it to say MerleFest organizers held true to the event’s high standards in how they responded to a surprise surge of the delta strain of COVI9-19 in August and now September.
The surge exceeded expectations in severity and persistence due to the delta variance of the virus.
MerleFest implemented what is becoming a standard for outdoor music events by requiring that people show proof of testing negative for COVID-19 within the prior 72 hours or of being fully vaccinated for the virus before being allowed in the festival gates.
When these requirements were announced in mid-August, MerleFest Director Ted Hagaman urged unvaccinated people planning to arrive at Wilkes Community College just before the start of MerleFest or later to get tested in advance due to limited testing capacity onsite. He said not getting tested until arriving at the festival would likely result in a long wait.
On Monday, Hagaman said MerleFest officials had arranged to make free COVID-19 testing available at three sites for residents of the immediate Wilkes area from noon to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (Sept. 13-15) before the four-day festival starts Thursday, Sept. 14.
He said the goal is to help a large number of local people get tested so they can attend MerleFest before out-of-town people arrive. Many of the locals are needed to staff food booths of non-profit organizations and assist with the festival in other ways.
The three testing sites are the main box office plaza at WCC, beside the WCC culinary building on Beacon Hill and in the parking lot of WCC’s Herring Hall off Oakwoods Road.
There are media reports of huge outdoor music festivals being held recently and not becoming COVID-19 super-spreaders. These include the four-day Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, which drew about 385,000 people in late July.
MerleFest is an annual tradition for thousands of people from all over the world and has done much to help others realize the wonderful people and beauty this area offers. Its economic impact for local nonprofits, businesses and WCC is counted on every year and loss of the event in 2020 is still being felt.
Festival organizers have always gone the extra mile to make MerleFest a safe and family-friendly event. They’re going to much greater lengths this year and following all CDC, state and local health guidelines to provide the safest event possible.
We as citizens of the area need to do our part by complying with safety requirements and by coming to the festival with either a vaccination card or negative COVID test within 72 hours of entry.
Let’s remind the thousands of visitors in Wilkesboro next week that MerleFest is still the premier festival in the world.