MOUNT VERNON – One of Knox County's most treasured cultural traditions will return this summer, following a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Mount Vernon Music & Arts Festival, formerly known as the Dan Emmett Music & Arts Festival, will take place August 13-15, organizers announced last week.
"I'm thrilled beyond belief, simply because it's a breath of fresh air coming. We get to do something that we haven't done in a while. It's a great release," MVMAF Co-Director Joseph Bell said Friday.
"We've been cooped up and now we get to do something different. We're ready and we will be ready. This is gonna blow people away with what we're able to do."
Initial plans for the festival will be announced during a Facebook Live session on Wednesday at 7 p.m. More details will be released in the coming weeks, organizers said, as August draws near.
"It feels amazing. It feels absolutely fantastic ..." MVMAF Board President Joe Rinehart said. "The best way I can describe it is, we simply have been in a waiting game like everybody else, and so we're really excited that we're going to be able to do something."
The festival typically brings thousands to downtown Mount Vernon for live music and family-friendly entertainment. Lee Greenwood served as the headliner in 2019, capping off a weekend that included an ice cream eating contest, live art demonstrations, an old-time fiddle contest and a car show.
Last year's festival was canceled in July due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since then, organizers have been working with Knox Public Health and the City of Mount Vernon to devise a plan that would allow the festival to safely return this year.
"It's been a year-and-a-half-long process," Bell said. "We obviously didn't have it last year because of COVID, so I've been planning from 'a' clear down to 'q' as far as potential possibilities."
Knox County Health Commissioner Julie Miller has approved the final plan, Bell said, and details will be released soon.
"This will be very safe for folks," Bell said. "It will be enjoyable and comfortable."
This will be the 33rd rendition of the festival, which began in 1988 as "Dixie Days." It was eventually renamed after Dan Emmett, one of Knox County's most iconic cultural figures, before going through another branding change in 2019.
The festival is known as a landmark cultural event in Knox County, stimulating the local economy and giving local artists a chance to display their talents. It is one of the county's most well-attended annual events, rivaled only by the Knox County Fair and Ariel-Foundation Park's Fourth of July Celebration.
Rinehart believes the return of the MVMAF will be well-received, given its crucial role in the community's social fabric.
"It's incredibly significant at a lot of different levels. But I think mostly it's one of those things people look forward to, because there are people that I see once or twice a year, and one of those times is at this festival," Rinehart said.
"The fact that we can showcase what this community has to offer, that we get a chance to showcase it – even in a limited year because of COVID – is really exciting. And to get things back on track, I think everybody is looking forward to that."