SILER CITY — COVID-19 has once again postponed the Hispanic Heritage Fiesta.
After months of planning and preparations, the Fiesta’s primary organizer, the Hispanic Liaison, …
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SILER CITY — COVID-19 has once again postponed the town’s Hispanic Heritage Fiesta.
After months of planning and preparations, the Fiesta’s primary organizer, the Hispanic Liaison, announced Saturday that the 8th Fiesta would not take place on Sept. 11 as originally planned because of “the rising threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant.”
“We didn’t anticipate this happening, and at the same time, it wasn’t like we didn’t have it in the back of our minds,” the Liaison’s executive director, Ilana Dubester, told the News + Record. “... We were certainly hoping that the turn of events would be better, that more people would have been vaccinated by July and this would be less of a risk, but that’s not the case.”
The Fiesta is a free outdoor festival that the Liaison, community members and other organizations throw each year to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which begins on Sept. 15. This year, the Fiesta was scheduled for noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, in front of the Liaison’s downtown Siler City office.
It would have been the first time Siler City hosted the celebration in two years. COVID-19 forced the Liaison to cancel it in 2020, and the year before that, the Liaison hosted an alternative anniversary celebration in its place.
According to Dubester, the Liaison finalized the decision to postpone Fiesta last week, but the writing first appeared on the wall a few weeks ago. Delta had begun surging across the country, vaccination rates plummeted and the CDC reversed its mask guidelines for the vaccinated. The increasing number of “breakthrough” COVID-19 infections also concerned organizers.
“So we consulted with the two main COVID doctors that we work with and the health department, and it wasn’t, like, unanimous,” she said. “It wasn’t like, oh, everybody said, ‘Oh, you should cancel,’ or anything like that, but there was enough caution put around the fact that Delta is peaking — it hasn’t peaked yet and is on the rise.”
Organizers continued to monitor COVID trends. After seeing that those trends weren’t likely to reverse by September, the Liaison and its volunteer planning committee decided to make the decision sooner rather than later to stave off further financial damage to the organization and give themselves time to plan an alternative event.
Planners considered requiring masks to save the Fiesta, but ultimately decided against it since staff would have no way to enforce it among the general public.
“We could certainly require all our vendors to be masked,” Dubester said. “ ... But we couldn’t do that with the general public. We could ask, but we couldn’t enforce it because even in the peak of the pandemic, everywhere, and particularly Siler City, people weren’t very good about wearing masks. So we didn’t want to be put in a position of being in conflict with our guests over mask wearing.”
With the postponement, the Liaison has decided instead to host an outdoor COVID-19 Health Fair on the same day. The fair will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 11 in the Chatham Rabbit Cafe courtyard and will offer free COVID-19 vaccinations, testing and information booths staffed by various health organizations.
“A lot of people are calling the office for testing, which is to us yet another indication that that had pretty much come to a halt in the last few months,” Dubester said. “ ... We’re getting at least one (call) a day for testing, which is an indication that things are getting worse here, too.”
Greensboro-based medical provider Better Care will administer the vaccinations — both first and second doses — as well as the COVID-19 tests. The fair will have “the full menu of vaccines,” Dubester said, so people can choose among the Pfizer, Moderna and the Johnson & Johnson shots.
The event will accept walk-ins, though the Liaison plans to ask people to RSVP with their vaccine preferences so staff can ensure the fair will have enough vaccines. To make room for health information booths and a waiting area, the health fair will temporarily close East Second Street next to the Chatham Rabbit.
“We’re going to try to make it as fun as possible,” Dubester said. “We’re going to still put up a bunch of decorations to make it lively. I have a DJ. …. He’s bringing his sound system, and he’s going to put on music and entertain people and give announcements and whatever else and at least make some noise and make it a festive COVID Health Fair.”
The Liaison will also hold a virtual Hispanic Heritage celebration on its social media accounts. As part of that celebration, they plan to raffle off eight prizes via Facebook Live on Oct. 15, the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. The raffle will sell both physical and digital tickets.
Not all its Hispanic Heritage celebration will go online, though. Siler City’s N.C. Arts Incubator will still exhibit the work of Mexican-American artist Antonio Alanís throughout Hispanic Heritage Month.
“The art is actually in Mexico right now, but (Alanís) knows what’s going on,” Dubester said. “We’ll also have his table at the event, so he can talk to people about his art, if he’s willing given the nature of the event, but otherwise, the exhibit will be put up in time for this event, for the COVID Health Fair.”
The Liaison has already begun refunding organizations who agreed to sponsor Fiesta. Those who have yet to hear anything should expect a call to discuss refunds soon, according to the Liaison’s news release.
Sept. 11’s event may not be the grand Fiesta many had hoped for, but Dubester said she hopes to see people turn out.
“I don’t imagine that hordes are gonna come. I wish,” she said with a laugh. “If we find out that there’s a ton of people registering, we’ll make more specific plans, but that hasn’t been the case in recent vaccination events. I’m hoping that Delta is going to inspire more people to get the vaccine.”
Reporter Victoria Johnson can be reached at email@example.com.
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