Two Festival Seasons Among Pandemic Tax Planners and Vendors – Tennessee Lookout


Life has been tough for the past 18 months for Tennessee residents who make a living through the state’s tourism and festival industry. .

Ruth Rico has made a name for herself selling Colombian cuisine from her Delicias Colombianas food truck throughout Nashville’s festival season, which normally lasts from spring to fall. But over the past year and a half, she has seen her income slow since events after events were canceled for COVID-related reasons.

“From festivals there are one or two, but we’re still trying to find a way to figure things out,” she said.

Festivals across Tennessee virtually ceased in March 2020, when cities were closed to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. State and city guidelines regulate and limit non-essential services and gatherings. In May 2020, small groups and contactless entertainment was allowed to reopen, but many festival organizers chose to postpone or cancel festivals altogether for the remainder of the year.

In doing so, they encountered financial difficulties.

For example, in Gallatin, Donna Belote, Executive Director of Greater Gallatin, Inc., planned two large-scale events per year and used the proceeds to support the organization and history. Palace Theater, a silent movie theater that originally operated from 1913 to 1977. At the start of the pandemic, Belote postponed Square Fest, an arts and crafts festival, for months due to guidelines from the State. Square Fest was finally canceled.

The Palace Theater was also closed due to the pandemic, and because there was no money to come ”,we kinda felt like we were limping, thinking, “are we going to be okay?” »», She declared.

“And we did. We did not earn any money, but we were able to maintain ourselves to maintain the viability of the organization, ”she added.

Franklin, known for its themed festivals, also canceled all of its festivities in 2020 due to the steadily increasing cases of COVID-19, which “was a challenge for the Heritage Foundation to survive as a charity organization. nonprofit, ”said Steve Citerin, spokesperson for the organization.

Its three major events – the Main Street Festival, PumpkinFest and Dickens of a Christmas – have all been canceled, losing thousands of visitors. This year, the Heritage Foundation decided to move the Main Street Festival from April to July, giving people time to get their COVID shots. Their October festival, PumpkinFest, a popular event for children, is still moving forward, although COVID-19 guidelines are in place.

While festival organizers have started to recover, vendors have not.

Williamson County Parks and Recreation held their first festival of the year, a kite event, on Saturday and Sunday after canceling more than 40 events since March 2020. While they have planned other events, organizers have found that food trucks are no longer willing to host events without guaranteed income.

Kites at the second Williamson County Parks and Recreation Kite Festival, October 9-10. (Photo: Williamson County Parks and Recreation)

The only thing I noticed is that the trucks ask for a guaranteed attendance number to be worth it, but it’s hard to do during COVID, ”said Laurie Kamunen, superintendent of community activities, adding that cancellations can still happen.

And that’s understandable, Kamunen said. Vendors put a lot on the line when making a living at festivals, tying money, inventory, and time to events that aren’t guaranteed. Many festival organizers charge a fee to vendors looking to sell their products.

In Gallatin, sellers were at least allowed to shift their fees to later dates as festivals were postponed.

“I had to sit on my veranda and call 170 vendors. They were very, very grateful that we didn’t cancel it, but postponed it, ”Belote said. “It really hurt them.

As a supplier, Rico lost inventory due to cancellations and understood this sentiment well. After having few opportunities to sell food, Rico diligently prepared for the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, spending $ 35,000 on rent and on freezers needed to prepare enough food for thousands of people. The event was postponed from June to September, but Ruth still spent 15 days preparing.

On August 31, the day before the Bonnaroo started, vendors were told that the event had been canceled after the land was saturated with water from flooding. As Rico watched the vehicles struggle to escape the muddy grounds, she was grateful that she had invested in freezers to contain her meals. But she wasted thousands of dollars and time on something that never happened. While most of its frozen foods could be resold, 3,000 empanadas would never meet the mouths of hungry customers. She donated it instead.

“Well, things are happening,” Rico said. “We’ll see how we get back all that we’ve lost because of it. “

Fortunately, there is still work to be done, Rico said. She participates in the Conexión Américas food program at Casa Azafrán, which pays food vendors to prepare meals to give to the community. Director Andrés Martinez said he received funds from, World Central Kitchen, an organization that uses food to promote local communities and entrepreneurs. Last year, Casa Azafrán participated in the elections as an early voting center. Rico was there too, handing out free empanadas.

“Not only do we hand out boxes of fresh produce, but we hand out ready meals that were prepared by chefs, contractors in our kitchen who were lacking work because they were missing festivals,” Martinez said.

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