ROGERSVILLE — Don’t think of it as a downsized Heritage Days. Think of it as a Vintage Market on steroids.

The Rogersville Heritage Association has decided to greatly reduce the number of food vendors and craft booths that will occupy downtown during the Oct. 9-11 Rogersville Heritage Days in hopes of making the event safer and curtailing the spread of COVID-19.

Heritage Days organizer Renee Trent told the Times News Wednesday that the RHA board of directors voted Tuesday night to cut the number of craft booths from 72 to approximately 37.

The goal is to be able to spread them out more along Main Street, as well as on Church Street and Depot Street, similar to the layout that seemed to work so well for the inaugural Rogersville Vintage Market in July.

The RHA also decided to greatly reduce the number of food vendors, who usually line both sides of Depot Street between Main Street and Washington Street.

”That tends to be the most congested area”

The food vendor area is one aspect of Heritage Days that created the most concern for organizers.

There will still be food vendors on Depot Street, Trent said, but there won’t be nearly as many as usual, and they’ll be spread out on only one side of Depot Street.

“That tends to be the most congested area, and we’re hoping by (reducing vendors) that will help with the social distancing protocols,” Trent said. “It will also give our downtown restaurants an opportunity to let people try them for the first time. It’s a good business weekend for them anyway, so this is hopefully going to add to that. We have so many new restaurants that have popped up on Main Street, and we wanted to give them an opportunity to be a bigger part of the festival.”

Trent added, “Heritage Days is such a community event that promotes the spirit of our heritage, and we wanted to keep it — especially in this time when we can’t get out and do things like normal. We want to give people an opportunity to get out and see the vendors that they like, but do it in a safe way.”

Trent noted, however, that the event is relying on the downward trend of new COVID-19 cases in Hawkins County continuing.

Trent added, “Of course, we will still be keeping our eye on any government mandates that come from the governor, should we see a spike and have to cancel. Hawkins County is going down (in COVID cases) a little bit, and we’re hoping that trend continues.”

A few other changes to the program

There will be hand sanitizer stations spread throughout the festival, as well as signs encouraging COVID-19 precautions and social distancing. Hawkins County’s mask mandate expires Sept. 30, but if it is extended into October, the RHA will encourage everyone attending Heritage Days to wear a mask.

The festival still kicks off Friday night with a classic car Cruise-In featuring live music on Main Street. Some Friday night routines have been canceled, however, including the Chili Cookoff, the children’s costume contest, and the Children’s Parade.

Trent said Youngins’ Yard attractions on Saturday and Sunday for children — which feature games, prizes, face painting and inflatable bouncy structures — will be smaller this year to accommodate better social distancing.

The Quilt Show, which is usually held in the courthouse, as well as the Art Show, which is usually held in the old U.S. Bank building, are canceled.

On Saturday and Sunday, there will still be live music on the Town Square adjacent to the Hale springs Inn, but spectators will be asked to social distance. The same rule applies to the dance performances, which are planned for the dance stage on Washington Street.

”Everybody came to the Vintage Market”

The Vintage Market, which had fewer vendors than its big brother Heritage Days and no live entertainment, was well attended and received excellent reviews from the community.

“That’s one of the reasons we went on with (Heritage Days). Everybody came to the Vintage Market. We just want the public to know we’re making decisions with their safety in mind, and hope they can come out and enjoy Heritage Days, in a slightly different way, yet still a good way.”

“We’re trying to give people something to do, enjoy our heritage, but do it in a safe way. We talked about moving it to the spring, but Heritage Days is an autumn event and we want to keep it that way.”