COVID cancels Jonquil Festival, again

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WASHINGTON, Ark. — Nearly a year after it began here, the COVID-19 pandemic has again sabotaged a spring festival with Historic Washington State Park announcing the Jonquil Festival is canceled.

The annual March festival is typically a harbinger of spring as jonquils begin to bloom across Southwest Arkansas.

This is the second year in a row the festival has been canceled, but organizers hope it can return in 2022, according to a news release. The popular event has drawn thousands of visitors annually since the 1970s, and it began in 1968 even before the state park was established.

Still, visitors can walk the grounds of Historic Washington, visit the 1874 Hempstead County Courthouse Visitor Center and dine at Williams’ Tavern Restaurant, which serves a daily lunch.

The visitor’s center hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Williams’ Tavern will close for maintenance Jan. 18-23 but then reopen.

Shelia Little, sales and promotions at the state park, said park staff were notified Monday by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism that the festival could not take place this year. However, visitors are still enjoying the park.

“We still have people coming here to visit the park,” Little said, noting anyone can acquire a map at the visitor’s center. “All the buildings have information on them, so you can walk around outside and still learn about the buildings. You can peek in the windows. You just won’t get to go inside and get a tour.”

There’s no charge to walk the park grounds. Additionally, the visitor’s center has a few exhibits to see.

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“With the weather being pretty like this, a lot of people can still get out and walk around the park,” Little said. That will include March when the jonquils bloom.

“By then, even though the festival’s not here, everybody comes up and takes photos because the jonquils are blooming. That is something people can still come up and enjoy even though the festival is not going on,” Little said.

If the coronavirus pandemic had not canceled last year’s Jonquil Festival and this year’s event, this would have been the 53rd annual jonquil celebration. The Valentine’s dinner at Historic Washington State Park has also been canceled this year.

(For more information: 870-983-2684.)


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