The Walnut Valley Association has announced plans for a virtual festival to replace the main event that was canceled due to coronavirus, while the City of Winfield is making plans for campers who may show up at the fairgrounds regardless.

A virtual Walnut Valley Festival, dubbed WVF 48.5, is set for Sept. 12-20, according to a press release Friday from the WVA. The event will include a week’s worth of activities, along with an online fundraiser. The fundraiser will raise money for the entertainers performing at the virtual festival, and will also help cover production costs for both the online event and the 49th festival in 2021.

The virtual festival will include some events that are held at the regular festival, such as the NewSong Showcase songwriting contest and the workshops, but in a virtual format. Throughout the week, the staff of Feisty’s Music Camp for Kids will hold sing-a-longs and online mural projects, and Andy May’s legacy of Acoustic Kids will be featured as well.

There will also be some special events. Those include an evening concert Sept. 16 with festival favorite John McCutcheon, devoted to “Maintaining a Sense of Community in COVID-19.”

A special Champions Showcase concert will stream the evening of Sept. 17, featuring performances by the winners of last year’s instrument contests. There will also be a virtual Battle of the Bands contest, open to any band that has never performed as part of WVF’s official lineup. Entries will be posted to the WVF website, and fans can choose their favorites using vote buttons that also contribute funds to support the cause. Winners will have the opportunity to play at the 49th Walnut Valley Festival in 2021.

Concerts by artists who were scheduled to perform this year will be streamed on Sept. 19 and 20. The performances will be recorded specifically for this event.

“One of the things that impressed us so much as we reached out to this year’s performers about our decision to postpone the festival, was how many of them expressed their support and asked how they might help,” WVF Executive Director Bart Redford said.

“These were people, artists and agents who had been getting these cancellation calls for months on end, telling us what a special place Winfield held in their hearts and asking us what they could do. So we decided that by taking WVF 48.5 virtual, we could help one another get through this global pandemic together — artists, festival-goers, WVA — until we can all meet in person once again.”

The fundraiser is being facilitated by Winfield’s Legacy Foundation and Winfield Arts and Humanities Council. To aid in fundraising, Elk Falls Pottery and Art Farm Screen Printing & Design have agreed to produce special mugs and T-shirts to reward donors. Fans should watch the Walnut Valley Festival official website and Facebook page for details and links for WVF 48.5.

While the WVA is planning a virtual festival, the City of Winfield is preparing minimum accommodations for campers who may decide to visit the fairgrounds anyway during September. Some fans have said on social media that they plan to come to the Winfield Fairgrounds anyway during the time when the festival would normally be held.

“We are trying to find that line of being prepared for more visitors than average, but not to encourage a full-fledged event during this time,” Winfield City Manager Taggart Wall said. “We know that some are planning to arrive at the campgrounds this fall and want to encourage them to do that in a safe way.”

The fairgrounds and the Pecan Grove will be under city control from Sept 4-20, not under WVA control as they usually are during the festival, according to a press release from the city. That means camping vehicle fees and regulations will be the same as those at Winfield City Lake, with the exception that the 14-day “moving period” will not apply during that time. Campers there before Sept. 4 who want to stay will be required to move to a new location on the grounds on that date. Roping off areas will not be permitted. Additional self-pay stations will be set up at the fairgrounds where campers can pay for grounds use. City staff will monitor the grounds to ensure attendees have camping and parking permits. Those permits must be visible from the road for campers and windshield for vehicles.

The city will provide some amenities, including port-a-potty restrooms in addition to the existing facilities, along with dumpsters. There is a sewer dump station on the grounds and a pump service will be available. Pre-registered food vendors will be allowed on the midway.

Building rentals will not be available, nor will “splitter” boxes for the 1,900 electrical hook-ups, which allow campers to be parked closer together. Showers will not be available. All public roads, including 14th Avenue, will remain open, and interior road access for emergency vehicles is required.

“In any case, we have available electrical hookups on the grounds. This may just space the campers out a little more, which this year isn’t a bad thing,” Wall said. “We want to be accommodating, but we ask visitors to remember, this isn’t the festival.”

Visitors to the area should be aware that the Winfield City Lake continues to experience high volume of usage, the release said. Anyone with questions can call the city at (620) 221-5600.

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