Latest COVID-19 victim: Texas Mushroom Festival

Posted 7/7/20

Madison County luckily has seen no human fatalities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Latest COVID-19 victim: Texas Mushroom Festival


Madison County luckily has seen no human fatalities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The same can no longer be said about non-human fatalities.

Organizers of the Texas Mushroom Festival and gala dinner made the decision recently to cancel the 2020 edition of the annual fete due to uncertainties surrounding the pandemic. The gala dinner was originally scheduled to take place Oct. 16 with the festival coming the following day and would have been the 19th iteration of the event.

According to organizers, the decision was made in order to protect the safety of volunteers, vendors, community members and guests. And the breadth of work involved in putting together the city’s largest event also played a role.

“This is not an overnight event,” said Jill Barnes, the festival’s president. “We are just as disappointed as everyone, we really are. It was not as easy decision. We have been meeting since April trying to decide what we are going to do.”

The planning for the Mushroom Festival commences almost as soon as it concludes. The committee meets in the ensuing weeks of the festival to discuss in detail what they felt went well and what did not. In December, they elect new board members before they hit the ground running in January.

Work relating to acquiring and retaining sponsors also begins immediately.

“Without sponsors, there is, of course, no festival,” said Barnes. “Once the new year starts, that is what we are doing. Our committee chairmen will then get together to start talking with vendors, we start designing the shirts, calling wineries and getting in touch with beer distributors. Really, anybody we work with. If we do not have a set plan by the summer, it becomes a problem because it takes that long to put everything into place.”

By July, the committee typically has a realistic idea of those involved and how much sponsorship money they will receive. But with the COVID-19 pandemic taking centerstage in early spring, Barnes stated the committee lacked necessary sponsors to properly move forward with the 2020 event.

“We really did not have a choice,” said Barnes. “We do not have enough things in place to continue and we do not have the sponsorships necessary to continue because (the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine) has hit all of our communities and small business so hard. We get the majority of our sponsorship money from our small businesses.”

Barnes acknowledged social media comments that questioned the decision in its immediate aftermath, most of which criticized the timing of the announcement as too early, since the festival was scheduled to take place in October.

“This takes a lot of planning and a lot of individuals,” said Barnes. “It is sad to see some people lash out at us like that when we have jobs just like everybody else. We aren't paid to run the festival, we do it for free. Until you have been inside it, you cannot understand the work that goes into it. It may look easy when it is all done, but it is a lot of work.”

Barnes has been involved with the festival for three years and has been president for two. She stated in Thursday’s press release that they will continue to plan for the 2021 event in order to make it even better.

“Knowing this is one of the biggest events Madisonville holds, and that we are responsible for saying yes or no, can sometimes feel deeper than people understand because your name goes along with all of it,” said Barnes. “It is heart-wrenching, it really is. It is something even my own kids look forward to each year.”