Apple Popcorn Festival crowd

File photo

Apple Popcorn Festival organizers say having an estimated 17,000 people in a small area is too big a risk to proceed with this year’s event.

BROOKSTON — A southern White County festival that features two all-American favorites won’t be happening in September because of the COVID-19 health emergency.

The 42nd edition of Brookston’s Apple Popcorn Festival was officially canceled Thursday after four of the six festival committee members voted to shut it down now rather than give it more time.

The festival was scheduled for Sept. 19.

“It is with a heavy heart that we are canceling this year’s festival,” said Shelley Christopher, whose grandmother, Dottie Smith, helped create the event more than four decades ago. “We did not make this decision lightly. We consulted with many members of the community, business owners and the health department.”

Christopher said she and another board member wanted to wait a little while longer — possibly until Aug. 1 — to make a decision.

“We know the ramifications, but four of the six members voted to cancel it now,” she said. “I can see both sides of the issue. This disheartens me because as much as we need to showcase the community, we also need to protect those who live and work here, too.”

Christopher said about 17,000 people are crammed in a two-square city block space during the one-day festival on what would most likely be a hot, late-summer day.

“We talked with the (White County) health department, who said the likelihood of it being hot will cause people to not wear their masks as they probably should,” she said. “We went over every possible scenario that would allow us to go forward with it, but it came down to having 17,000 people in such a small area.”

Christopher said she understands that businesses rely on dollars generated from the festival, but added that Gov. Eric Holcomb still has the option of shutting down the state once again if COVID-19 cases spike. That, she said, would cost participants even more money.

“One of our concerns was seeing businesses bump up their inventories leading up to the festival, then (the committee) having to cancel (the festival) at the last minute,” she said. “Businesses would have invested thousands of dollars in that inventory and not be able to sell it.”

The Apple Popcorn Festival usually features an early-morning pancake breakfast at the Brookston Fire Station, family entertainment, 5K and 10K runs, apple bobbing, prince and princess contest, various contests for children, Frisbee dogs, apple dessert contest, art show, men’s leg contest, and a book sale at the Brookston library.

Christopher said booth and food vendors have the option of having their space reservation carry over to the 2021 festival or obtaining a refund. Those who prefer a refund should email shelleychristopher@comcast.net.