Chamber Curtails 2020 Peanut Festival Activities

Modified Queen’s Coronation Gets Green Light

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – There’s good news and bad news for the 2020 Peanut Festival. First, the good news. The Grapeland Chamber of Commerce approved holding a modified version of the Peanut Queen’s Coronation.

Now the bad news. All activities held in the city park as well as the Peanut Festival parade have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decisions were reached during a meeting of the Grapeland Chamber of Commerce held on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 11.

Chamber President Brandon Bridges called the meeting to order just after 12 pm and the first order of business addressed was the status of the Peanut Festival.

“We are going to have a hard time meeting CDC requirements and we started looking at everything that they have put out. There would be a lot of requirements placed on the board. In my opinion, as far as stuff at the park, I don’t think we can enforce the requirements with the staff and volunteers that we have. It would probably be five times the undertaking we have had in the past. We would have to check everyone that comes in and out of the park and we would have to have a whole lot of monitoring,” he said.

Among the areas of concern Bridges noted were the use of masks, the cleaning of facilities, limiting the number of people gathered in one spot and the cleanliness of restrooms, among other items.

“My big concern,” Bridges continued, “is we can’t follow all of these requirements. If someone gets sick, I think we are leaving ourselves open to wards liability. That is where I stand on it right now.”

Chamber Treasurer Nikki Steinsbo commented, “I think we need to cancel the park for the same reasons. We can’t take that responsibility.”

Chamber member Josh Wall clarified OSHA had established guidelines for work place liability when it comes to COVID-19 but cautioned he was unsure what the guidelines were for a gathering or community event.

“I think because this is deemed more of a social event versus workplace…” Steinsbo said.

“There are a couple of things,” Bridges said. “There is the social versus workplace. In other words, it is not essential. The second thing is – you said something about if you follow the guidelines. I don’t think we can. I don’t trust us to.”

After several minutes of discussion, the chamber voted unanimously to cancel the events at the Grapeland City Park.

An official statement concerning this decision was also which reads:  

“It is with great sadness that we (The Grapeland Chamber of Commerce) announce that we will be canceling the events at the park for the 2020 Grapeland Peanut Festival. This decision was not made easily or hastily and was made with the safety and love of our community in mind. CDC guidelines define this as a high risk event. We, in good conscience, cannot host this event while ensuring the safety and well-being of the participants. It is our desire to support our community to the best of our ability without contributing to any unnecessary risk.”

The next area discussed was the Peanut Queen’s Coronation. Bridges said he had spoken to Tammy Hassel-Anderson within the last hour and she informed him she would not chair the coronation in its normal fashion.

However, the chamber president explained, “She said she would entertain the event in a different manner. She said she could make it one of two different things. The first is to have a partially live format with some things done before so the judges could still judge. She also said she has a plan in mind where there would be no live event at all. There would be nothing happening in the auditorium but the girls would still do the events and then and we would crown a queen. Or, Tammy said she would be okay with not having a coronation at all.”

As the discussion about the coronation got underway, chamber member Kelly Nicol said, “There is an issue that we are probably going to have a football game the Friday night before. It’s kind of hard to explain to these girls that the guys will meet up on Friday and play football but on Saturday, we can’t have a coronation. If it was a school issue, you couldn’t tell the girls no because of Title IX.”      

Steinsbo added, “We have to make prudent decisions we can defend anywhere. And as a board, I think that is what we have to do. We have to make a decision that we can host this event safely and put all the safeguards in place that we can and follow that.”

“I want to be legally compliant and I want to do the right thing,” Wall said. “Ethically, I want to make sure to go above and beyond the standards to maintain the safety and well-being of our community. We can still host an event through all of that, I don’t see a problem.”

Several more tangential issues were discussed before Bridges brought the discussion back to the matter at hand.

“Here is what I’m hearing.  We are not going to do anything at the park. No one is excited about having the parade, either. Everyone does seem to be geared towards having a pageant. It will be modified and we will let Tammy present us a plan,” Bridges said.

A final decision on the 75th Annual Pageant and the crowning of the 75th Annual Peanut Queen will be made later this month.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].   

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