Harvest Homecoming-2

Dave Runyon grills pork chops in 2019 at the Harvest Homecoming on Bank Street at the Bert’s Kitchen booth. The festival returns this year after being cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

NEW ALBANY — One of the largest festivals in Indiana is slated to return to New Albany next month.

The New Albany Board of Public Works and Safety approved Tuesday street closures for the Harvest Homecoming parade and booth days.

The 2020 event was cancelled due to the pandemic. This year’s main festivities will begin on Saturday, Oct. 2 with the parade, which begins at 3 p.m. at New Albany High School and concludes downtown.

Booth days will begin the following Thursday, Oct. 7, and last through Oct. 10.

There was discussion and inquires about access for downtown residents and businesses as well as security for riverfront concerts, but there was no talk about COVID-19 protocols during the meeting.

The board over the past several months has mandated that event organizers produce pandemic safety plans before allowing use of the city’s amphitheater and other facilities. Some of those requirements have waned recently as more in-person events have been held throughout Southern Indiana.

As of Tuesday there were no vaccination or mask requirements in place for the festival, which draws thousands of people to New Albany. The volunteer Harvest Homecoming organization stated on its website that the Floyd County Health Department and Indiana Department of Health will be set up outside of the festival on Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 to offer vaccinations and COVID-19 testing.

“We’ve not been given any restrictions for this festival because everything we’re doing is outside,” said Beth White, president of this year’s Harvest Homecoming.

Some of the normal events, such as the Friday business luncheon, won’t be held this year.

Though COVID-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s festival, pandemic relief funds awarded to Harvest Homecoming through the New Albany Redevelopment Commission will be used to offset some costs for local businesses in 2021.

Downtown businesses will be reimbursed the cost for one booth rental. Additionally, Harvest Homecoming is offering free concerts at the riverfront amphitheater throughout the day on Oct. 9 with funding from the grant covering the costs.

Develop New Albany also contributed money to offset booth costs and to help with marketing.

“We’re really excited and we’re trying to keep the festival outside while keeping the activities that people want to have and want to participate in,” White said.

Art Niemeier, a past Harvest Homecoming president and member of the nonprofit, told the board of works that downtown merchants and residents are being notified about the festival and the street closures. They will be given passes to ensure they have access to their businesses and residences, he said.

Niemeier said Harvest Homecoming officials held a downtown merchants meeting Tuesday to go over the 2021 plans and address any concerns.

“I think we’ve been in really good communication with all of the downtown businesses, especially the new businesses,” he said. “We’ve tried to let them know as best as we can what to expect.”

For more information, go to harvesthomecoming.com.

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