During a meeting on Thursday, Aug. 26, the Kentucky Apple Festival Board invited representatives from Kentucky Public Health, a local hospital and Paintsville/Johnson County Emergency Management to speak with the board members, according to a statement from the board.

After discussion, according to the statement, and listening to the information provided by the agencies about the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect and status in Johnson County, the board ultimately voted to cancel the event for 2021 and instead host it again in 2022.

In the absence of the festival, the Alley on Main's Alleyfest, which was scheduled to coincide with the Apple Festival, will now be expanding to include food vendors and arts and craft vendors, according to Alley on Main business partner Cliff Pelfrey.

In addition to this change, the City of Paintsville has also thrown their hat into the ring to offer an alternative festival on what Paintsville Mayor Bill Mike Runyon called "very short notice."

Representatives of the board declined to comment further.

An official statement on the Alley on Main's social media said that the music festival is still going to function as planned, with the addition of Tyler Booth as a Saturday co-headlining act alongside 49 Winchester.

As part of its initiative to help provide some opportunity for the many non-profit organizations in Johnson County, ranging from little league baseball teams to churches and fire departments, who relied on the Kentucky Apple Festival to fundraise for yearly activities, the Paintsville city government has allowed extra space to the Alleyfest while also closing down many of the streets in downtown Paintsville and making space for these vendors, according to Runyon. The city is referring to this new festival as the Autumn Fest, and hopes to capitalize on the draw of Alleyfest to give a shot in the arm to non-profits, Runyon said.

Runyon said he wanted to clarify that, after seeing many criticizing the city for the Apple Board's decision to postpone the festival, the city does not have control of the Apple Board in that fashion and it was not the city's decision to do so.

"That's the only reason, we just agreed, that this would make two years of these non-profits not having this major fundraiser," Runyon said. "Basically, most of those churches, schools, civic organizations, a lot of those people depend on that fundraising event during the Apple Festival, so what we decided to do, since the Apple Board decided to cancel Apple Day, and that's one thing a lot of people don't understand, is that the city didn't cancel it, the city has nothing to do with canceling Apple Day, but we thought we'd go ahead and close down some streets and if any non-profits want to come in and set up and try to make a little bit of money, we're going to let them do that. That's about all we can do."

Runyon said the city plans to have the usual arts and crafts that are available at the Apple Festival, and, if possible, a carnival, although the mayor did say that he was not sure whether or not the city would be able to facilitate that on such short notice.

"We have talked about arts and crafts, we'd like to have those, and we'd also like to have a carnival, if we can, if we can plan it this late," Runyon said. "We just don't know if we're going to be able to do that, but we'd like to have a few things. It's just such short notice, we're going to have a hard time trying to offer a whole lot, but we at least wanted to offer something so these non-profits can make some money, which they desperately need."

Runyon said that making this decision wasn't easy and that the festival would require cooperation from attendants on following common-sense and Centers for Disease Control guidelines, but that the festival being outdoors would help provide for social distancing — hopefully allowing the festival to happen safely.

"It's a tough call, but I think we can pull it off, if everyone can just adhere somewhat to CDC guidelines, I think we'll be fine, but they're going to have to understand that there's going to be places they'll have to adhere to those guidelines," Runyon said, adding that he understood it is difficult to make a decision either way in the current climate and state of the pandemic, as one would face backlash either way. "It's outdoors, that's one thing, being outdoors is a good thing for us. I know it was a tough call, for anybody to call something off because of this COVID-19 outbreak, and we've got a good one going on, I will say that, this delta variant is a good one, it's spreading like wildfire. But, hopefully, it may fall off in a couple of weeks."

Runyon said he was aware that this decision might not be popular, but that he doesn't believe the public can accept another lockdown and we're going to have to learn to live with the virus, meaning adhering to CDC guidelines and, he added, getting vaccinated.

"I know for sure it's not going to be popular with some people, but it's just a call that you've got to make, and people are just so sick and tired of being hemmed up, and I just don't think we can close things down again, you know, we're going to have to learn to live with this virus and if that's following CDC guidelines, that's what we're going to have to do," Runyon said. "The easiest thing for them to do is to go out and get the vaccination."

For more information, visit the Alley on Main's social media profiles, available on Facebook and Instagram, or visit the venue's website at, www.alleyonmainky.com. To keep up with updates on the new Autumn Fest, follow the city government on Facebook by searching for "City of Paintsville - Government" and following the page.