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Dawsonville, Moonshine Festival at odds over mask mandate
Moonshine Festival
A car heads up the parade in Dawsonville during the annual Mountain Moonshine Festival. (Allie Dean Dawson County News)

The Dawsonville City Council has chosen to postpone a decision on the upcoming 53rd annual Mountain Moonshine Festival until this week, after a special called meeting failed to resolve outstanding questions about the festival’s safety procedures and locations. 

The meeting Sept. 2 resulted from an ongoing discussion between local leaders and representatives from K.A.R.E. for Kids, on how the festival could continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At a previous meeting, Dawsonville City Council members presented a list of guidelines that would need to be followed at the festival in order for an event permit to be granted. Those guidelines included enforcement of mask use by all vendors and attendees, placement of hand sanitizer pumps at each booth and a limit on the number of streets closed for the festival. 

According to K.A.R.E. for Kids President Rhonda Goodwin, they are willing to comply with all of the city’s requirements for the festival, except for the face masks requirement. 

“I think it’s important at this point to say that the requirement for all vendors and attendees to wear masks and for us to enforce that is just something that we cannot do,” Goodwin said to the council. “We feel like we can meet all the rest of the recommendations.” 

In response, Dawsonville Mayor Mike Eason said that the city’s request for a mask mandate at the festival is of utmost importance during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since the majority of attendees are from outside Dawsonville. 

“Keeping in mind that Dawsonville’s numbers are down right now, the people that come to the Mountain Moonshine Festival are primarily from out of town,” Eason said. “We want to try to protect everybody as much as possible and to be a good steward for the citizens here as well as the people who come, so we would like for y’all to try to work with us on that and come up with a plan.” 

Addressing the festival mask requirement, Council Member Mark French, said that the Moonshine Festival is beneficial to the entire Dawsonville community and urged the other council members to help K.A.R.E. for Kids find a solution to the problem.

“Due to the reach and scope of the project that they carry out and the benefit that it presents our entire community, I think that it would be very ill-advised not to allow them the opportunity to do their very best to do what we are requesting them to do and what they are proposing,” French said. “I’m sure we can reach some agreement.” 

The festival has 92 vendors signed up for the event. According to Goodwin, they believe that all the vendors can be fit on Allen Street, Memory Lane and Main Street Park in Dawsonville, following the city’s request on limiting local streets closed down for the festival. 

But according to Eason, prior to the meeting, K.A.R.E. for Kids had not submitted an official plan to the council for approval. Because of this, the council was unable to make a decision on whether to grant a permit for the festival. 

“I apologize that we did not submit everything,” Goodwin said. “We were 100% under the impression after the last meeting that we were coming back for a work session, not for a special called meeting.” 

Council members voted to postpone the decision until Sept. 10. 

“What we need for you to do is to get your plan together and to submit it three business days before our meeting so our council members have time to read it and digest it and make recommendations,” Eason said. “We want this thing to happen, I think all of us here would like for the moonshine festival to go on, but we’ve got an obligation to try to protect our community.”

This story originally appeared at dawsonnews.com

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