Hanceville Fall Fest canceled

Fall Fest Committee responds

First Baptist Church Hanceville Pastor Philip Wigley speaks to the Hanceville City Council Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – The announcement Thursday that Hanceville’s Fall Fest has been canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions led many to take to social media to criticize the City of Hanceville and the decision made by the Hanceville Fall Fest Committee. In response, First Baptist Church Hanceville Pastor Philip Wigley spoke at Thursday night’s meeting of the Hanceville City Council to explain the decision.

“Hanceville Fall Fest has been a group of churches, anywhere from 5-10 churches in the community, sometimes more, who got together and fundraised and collected candy to do Hanceville Fall Fest for the community,” said Wigley. “It was started as a way to just do something for the community and helping out in the community. We thank the town. The town, it’s always been a cooperative effort.”

He continued, “Every year it is bigger than what we think it would be. The committee did (it) together, and I do not envy anybody making any decisions on any kind of public event or any kind of public policy or any of those things. From town council, to Mud Creek or any of the groups because everybody is confused about things going on around us. Right now, we live in a very politically divided climate with very polarized opinions on everything. As leadership, you have to look on both sides of those for and against.

“With things going on, the schools starting back and many of our churches have just now got back to some normalcy of regular services, the CDC guidelines not recommending any trick or treat festivities, we just could not outweigh those who were for against all of those things to execute an event that the fullness of the committee was not confidant. With that, we made the decision to postpone until next year.”

Wigley said he understands that people are upset.

“We understand that people’s feelings are hurt, upset and all those things and that is not our intent. We don’t want the town to take any brunt of any of this because it is a committee of people from local churches making those decisions. The mayor came and met with us that day when we were meeting to talk about those things. We knew either way we go, somebody is going to be upset. We as a committee apologize. We were talking about some things we can do next year to do some better community involvement with some of those things because at first, it was just the group of churches coming together and it has evolved since then and taken on a life of its own.

“It’s hard to encourage something that somebody else is discouraging. With that, that was our recommendation to postpone this year. It is fundraised primarily through churches; candy is collected primarily through churches. We have anywhere between 5,000-10,000 people to come through the downtown and there is just no way we could sanitize for everybody between each car. There are things you just can’t do in that size of a crowd and execute it without someone, the last thing we want is, there is a major spike and it was the event that caused it. That would look worse on the town than canceling it.”

He concluded, “Our prayer is that we will see a resurgence of God’s will done in our community and around us. We love this community. The churches love this community and being a part of it. We want to minister and that was the goal of it, it didn’t matter the denomination and pretty much every denomination is or has been involved in some point. We will work on some things and get ready for next year.”

Hanceville Mayor Kenneth Nail also addressed those comparing the scheduled Kids Night Out, a City event, and the canceled Hanceville Fall Fest hosted by area churches and Mud Creek Arts and Craft Festival hosted by Friends of the Festival.

He said, “We have several events throughout the year in Hanceville. The City works in a supportive role. The City tries to play a very important supportive role in all these different things. Now, the Kids Night Out is a City event and I don’t want to sound like these others aren’t important City events because we are supportive of them.”

With the absence of this year’s Mud Creek Arts and Crafts Festival, Hanceville’s downtown merchants have quickly organized a Downtown Merchants Block Party for Oct. 24 to complement the Mud Creek Marching Festival still scheduled that day at Hanceville High School’s Ray Talley Stadium. The council gave its approval for the Block Party, which will feature the shops and eateries in downtown Hanceville as well as live music, additional vendors and a car show. More information about the event will be provided later.

Nail encouraged those in the community to support Hanceville’s local businesses, saying, “Let me say this about our merchants, and I understand things have been turned upside down. If you want to see downtown to thrive, you’ve got to come downtown and to Hanceville and spend some money. Don’t always run to Wally World (Wal-Mart). Come spend some money in Hanceville. The thing is, ‘Oh, we love downtown.’ Well, if you love downtown, you better get your tail down there and spend some money. Some of these businesses ain’t going to be, and I said ain’t, ain’t going to be around. It ain’t going to happen if we don’t spend some money. So everybody, please go spend some money.”

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Christy Perry