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City of Decatur officials surprised by festival announcement

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City of Decatur officials surprised by festival announcement

Joe Stark (right) and his brother David perform as the band Baby Bee during the Decatur Arts Festival on Saturday, May 23, 2015. Photo: Jonathan Phillips
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This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Book Festival on June 2 dropped an unexpected announcement on the community.

Four festivals canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic were making a return on Oct. 1-3.

The city would see the return of the Amplify Decatur Music Festival, the Decatur Book Festival, the Decatur Craft Beer Festival and the Decatur Arts Festival. This followed earlier news that Decatur Book Festival would hold some virtual events this year and that there would not be a Decatur Arts Festival this year. But information about the return of the festivals wasn’t immediately posted to the festivals’ respective websites when DBF made the announcement.

When Decaturish contacted Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers, he said he first learned of the news via the DBF email. He apparently wasn’t the only city official caught off guard by the announcement.

Assistant City Manager Linda Harris told Decaturish that while the festivals have been in talks with the city about returning, the city hasn’t issued any permits yet. In the email, DBF said festival organizers were working with the city of Decatur to provide a safe environment for attendees. Harris works in the city’s community and economic development department.

Harris said the city hasn’t approved these festivals as of June 3.

“I am surprised that the information was released without final approval of the permit,” Harris told Decaturish. “We look forward to receiving the official permit with the details needed in order to consider permitting it. In 2020 the Book Festival received permission to begin holding the annual Labor Day Book Festival event on the first weekend in October beginning in 2021.”

A spokesperson for Amplify told Decaturish they didn’t have any involvement in the DBF’s announcement.

“At the moment, they’re putting together information for their official announcement, which I can share with you as soon as it’s ready,” the spokesperson said.

A message sent to the Book Festival asking for more information about the June 2 email was not immediately returned.

It’s not clear if all the events will need permits. DBF intends to hold an event on Oct. 2 at First Baptist Church of Decatur and Harris said the Beer Festival plans to hold their events on private property at the Brick Store Pub. A permit would not be required for those locations, but Harris said, “I have not seen a document that describes any of the four events in detail.”

Here’s Harris’ full statement about the festival announcement:

The four organizations have been meeting with our special events coordinator and have been discussing details around their request to hold a joint event on that weekend. They have each scaled back their large events and have been discussing their proposed plans and dates. We have not received an official special events permit that includes a site plan, proposed safety guidelines, space for social distancing and specific days and times of each proposed event. Once we have received the proposed special event permit, we will review it and make a recommendation for approval if it meets the city’s safety guidelines. We did this for the BBQ, Blues and Bluegrass Festival and for the Juneteenth event. Those events submitted their proposed plans that included a site plan and proposed COVID safety protocols and after we approved it, they send out their press releases. I looked at Zoe [Seiler’s article] and it follows what they have discussed with us in their planning meetings including the reference to following COVID-safety guidelines. I am surprised that the information was released without final approval of the permit. We look forward to receiving the official permit with the details needed in order to consider permitting it.

In 2020 the Book Festival received permission to begin holding the annual Labor Day Book Festival event on the first weekend in October beginning in 2021.

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