The annual Fountain Festival of Arts and Crafts will take centerstage in downtown Fountain Hills this upcoming weekend, Nov. 13-15, with hundreds of vendors and thousands of visitors expected.
This year the fair is operating under a health emergency, as COVID-19 continues to plague the country. In light of that situation, the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the event, has prepared a comprehensive Public Health and Safety Plan for the event.
After Chamber CEO Betsy LaVoie presented the health and safety program to the Town Council in September, the council voted 4-3 to issue a town permit for the special event.
The Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce has hosted the annual arts fairs for nearly 50 years, and this year the pandemic presented a threat of cancellation of the three-day fair.
“(The Chamber) urges all visitors and residents to read through the full Public Health and Safety Plan featured on our website, fhchamber.com, as there are visitor expectations that will be enforced throughout the program,” LaVoie said. “Please help us be leaders in the successful execution of a large outdoor event in a safe environment. Our community, businesses, artisans, volunteers and staff wellness are of the utmost importance as we present this year’s Fall Fountain Festival of Fine Arts and Crafts.”
LaVoie said the health and safety plan cites Governor Doug Ducey’s executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic that would prohibit any events or gatherings that would attract more than 50 people, however, the governor changed his position to allow such events if permitted by the municipality.
Lavoie made her case for going ahead with the fair by noting that several similar events are scheduled around the Valley including Cave Creek, Tempe and West Valley locations.
LaVoie has also outlined the comprehensive safety plan in effect for the fair.
“The (festival) understands the impact and importance that our fairs have on local businesses, the economy and our community,” the plan states. “We are prepared to implement strict physical distancing procedures as well as (a) detailed and thorough public health and safety plan.”
LaVoie said the plan was prepared conforming to the guidelines of CDC and current state and local regulations.
“Changes will be made upon recommendations and updates by governmental bodies, as well as the CDC, WHO or Arizona Department of Health Services,” the plan states.
The plan calls for a doubling of security and having more than two dozen personnel on hand to monitor the measures being put in place.
One of the primary points of the plan is the wearing of face coverings. This is currently a mandate from the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, which could change up until the date of the fair.
The face covering mandate would apply to all guests, vendors, volunteers, artists, exhibitors and staff.
Visitors to the fair will be directed to abide by one direction of travel past the booths.
Vendors are being directed to maintain six-foot distancing within their booths and limit the number of customers at one time.
There will be complimentary hand sanitizing stations throughout the area and increased sanitizing of booth areas and displays.
Check-in will be done remotely to avoid personal contact.
The amount of handout material from the Chamber and individual vendors will be eliminated.
Vendors are being required to sign a waiver agreeing to all terms of the safety plan. LaVoie told the council that vendors are expressing their desire to do whatever is necessary to go forward with a successful event.
The Chamber is also publicizing a code of conduct and expectations for all visitors.
Anyone feeling ill or having a temperature of 100.4 or greater should not attend the event. Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or had contact with someone who has tested positive within the previous 21 days should not attend.
The Chamber has also eliminated some activities traditionally related to the event including the Saturday evening artists’ party, the political row of vendor booths, cancelling the veterans’ beer garden and cancelling entertainment associated with the fair.
The cancellation of the beer garden and live entertainment was done to comply with state regulations related to the pandemic.
Fountain Hills Town Councilman Alan Magazine has been a participant in the fair for several years but said he will opt out this year and voted against the council allowing the permit.
Some of the regular vendors for the food court have withdrawn or will reduce their options due to several volunteers deciding not to participate.
Also, The Times has been told that some downtown businesses will close their doors for the fair due to the number of visitors and potential spread of the virus.