Manager: Strawberry Fest may happen, with limits

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Interim City Manager Nancy Brewer discussed the possibility of Strawberry Festival happening this year during the city manager’s report to the City Council Wednesday, April 14.
After meeting with festival coordinators, she said, Brewer learned that organizers have a 65-page plan to host a safe festival, though holding the festival has not yet been determined.
If the festival takes place, all COVID regulations will be monitored and enforced.
“They’re working really hard to get a Strawberry Festival put on this year so Lebanon can celebrate, hopefully coming out of pandemic,” Brewer said. “This is a risk-reward opportunity, which could be good or bad, so I think they’re working really hard to mitigate the risks.”
In order to maintain safety and allow the festival to be a success, Brewer said advertising for the event will be limited to Lebanon, and there will be a no-tolerance policy to the extent that people who do not obey the mask rule will automatically be kicked out.
Rising COVID-positive case loads in Linn County are cause for concern to the board, she noted. Brewer said the public needs to be aware that all rules for COVID and other safety concerns will be enforced.
“We want it to be successful for the people who are chomping at the bit to get out, and we want it to be successful for the people who really want to go but are iffy on being in a crowd. We want everyone to feel welcome and come.”
Other possible plans for the festival include fireworks for one night, and a reverse parade where residents can drive by parked floats.
Councilor Jason Bolen expressed concern about negative media attention Lebanon could get for holding one of Oregon’s first big events of the year “so early.”
Patrolling such a large crowd to make sure they’re all social distancing and wearing masks would be a challenge, he said.
“And the potential for a superspreader event is real,” he added. “Our county numbers for vaccination are fairly low. I think there’s a lot of doubt in our community about the virus and about the vaccine. We don’t have strong vaccination rates right now, and that’s a bad thing for events like this.”
Councilors continued a brief discussion about access to vaccines, and encouraging more people to get vaccinated.
“If we can get case counts back to the moderate level, there will be benefits to attendees and some flexibility that won’t be there if we’re at high,” Brewer said. “We have some time to get those case counts down. There’s kind of a hope that as we come off the Easter/spring break curve, that we will start seeing cases going back down.”
Brewer, Bolen, and Councilor Rebecca Grizzle noted how hard the festival coordinators have worked to make the festival safe and fun, should it happen this year.
“Unbelievable hours and documentation for how they’re going to operate,” Brewer said. “They’re working really hard to make this safe and to make it fun for the people from Lebanon to be able to get out of their houses and enjoy a long standing tradition.”