The executive board of the Harrisonville Area Chamber of Commerce voted last week to cancel the annual Log Cabin Festival with a vote of 8-5.
The vote was held Sept. 3 and later that afternoon it was announced via social media. The notice read:
The Harrisonville Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to cancel the Log Cabin Festival on October 2-3.
It was determined the chamber and its volunteers would not be able to adequately manage the protocols outlined by the Cass County Health Department and Center for Disease Control and Prevention required to ensure a safe and fun event.
Additionally, as a champion of our community, our schools and businesses felt that there was too high a risk of transmitting COVID-19 and negatively impacting our citizens and those from surrounding areas.
We look forward to continuing this long-standing Harrisonville tradition in future years and to continue to encourage sustainable economic growth, supporting our members and partnering with local governments and promoting productive community relationships.
In a letter dated Sept. 2, Andrew Warlen, health director for the Cass County Health Department, advised the committee: “Based on the number of attendees (approximately 2,000) and the nature of the event, this event falls in the ‘highest risk’ category of the CDC guidelines.”
He also noted, “One other avenue you may want to pursue prior to having the event is to check with chamber’s insurer to see if they will fully cover liability for potential disease transmission if all CDC guidelines are not followed.”
Chamber Executive Director Bing Schimmelpfenning said the chamber’s insurer had assured liability was not an issue.
According to minutes from the meeting, members of the board faced two major issues, the health element was expressed by the majority, while other members noted the event is a major source of revenue for the chamber as well as for several area organizations who count on the festival for fundraising.
Kevin Wood noted that school is back in session and kids’ sports and other activities are proceeding. Cheryl Bush, the chamber president, noted the job of the board is to represent the interests of its members.
The negative vote came despite the board having previously approved the event, the city’s board of aldermen approving the event unanimously two weeks earlier and both of the chamber’s committees which oversee the event: The Log Cabin Committee and Finance Committee had voted to move forward with the event.
The festival accounts for about 10 percent of the chamber’s annual income. The annual budget is about $130,000 and the festival generated between $13 and $14 thousand last year. The chamber had already collected $8,600 in sponsorship and $7,800 in booth rentals this year. The carnival was expected to generate about $4,000.
Schimmelpfenning said he is not sure if the chamber will be responsible for expenses of the carnival which has had paid for upgrades and inspections in preparation for the event. He was also concerned the carnival company, Jones and Company based out of Richmond, might be forced out of business without the Log Cabin Festival.
“I know they were counting on us to stay in business for the year, but I am afraid by cancelling they may not be available for us next year,” Schimmelpfenning said. “There are only two carnivals working in Missouri and we worked with the other one in the past and were not happy, so I am concerned we might not be able to get a carnival in the future.
Schimmelpfenning also noted that while there were rumors the festival was being canceled for other reasons, including trouble with the city, the sole reason is health concerns. City Administrator Brad Ratliff was one of the five board members to vote for the event, along with County Commissioner Monte Kisner, Kevin Wood, Scott Beck and Obie Carl.
Voting to cancel the event were Brandi Torres, Karen Allen, Brittany Sexton, Amanda Stites, Andrea Murphy, Luke Shrout, Rob Lee and Paul Mensching.