Downtown Bentonville Inc. cancels August ‘First Friday’ event due to COVID concerns

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 801 views 

Bentonville nonprofit Downtown Bentonville Inc. (DBI) said Tuesday it has canceled the monthly “First Friday” festival scheduled this Friday (Aug. 6) at the downtown square.

According to a news release, DBI said the decision is related to the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and local hospitals reaching capacity.

“This hard decision was made in the best interest of public health and after recommendations from top Northwest Arkansas medical professionals. Our event could potentially draw hundreds of young, school-aged children and their families to booths with hands-on activities,” Kirk Gober, executive board president of DBI, said in a statement. “It breaks our heart to cancel a First Friday, but it’s the right thing to do to keep our community safe and not create additional strain for our regional health system.”

The Back-to-School-themed “First Friday” was organized as a partnership with Bentonville Schools to celebrate the district’s 150th anniversary. All district schools, high school marching bands, cheer squads, principals and multiple staff members were scheduled to attend.

DBI is still planning to host a COVID vaccine clinic to walk-ins from 4-8 p.m. Friday at 105 S. Main St. No ID, insurance cards or reservations are required to receive the vaccine.

“The physical and mental health of our community is our top priority. As much as we want to continue gathering, we cannot ignore the fact that our local healthcare facilities are running at full capacity,” DBI executive director Andrew Heath said in a statement.

DBI has no plans to cancel other downtown events but will continue to speak with medical professionals and assess the safety of future community gatherings.

Bentonville Farmers Market and Art Market will be restricted to only local farmers, growers, artisans and makers, and additional interactions will be limited temporarily. The market footprint will continue to offer additional space between vendor booths to accommodate social distancing and safe shopping. Face masks and hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the event. Attendees are encouraged to wear face coverings.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Experience Fayetteville announced it was canceling its “First Thursday” festival scheduled for this Thursday (Aug. 5).

“While we are deeply disappointed that we’ve had to make this decision, we recognize that our monthly First Thursday events draw many families to the square, including some of the most vulnerable among us, like children who are ineligible to be vaccinated for the delta variant of the coronavirus,” Experience Fayetteville wrote in a social media post.