Cotton Festival Latest Casualty Of COVID-19

DUNN – COVID-19 struck again, and this time it hit close to home.

The Dunn Area Tourism Authority has announced it has canceled the 22nd annual N.C. Cotton Festival in November amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The downtown event attracted thousands of people to Dunn over the years and its loss is yet another blow to the local economy brought on by COVID-19.

Lilly Ackerman looks around while brother Jack reads the paper at the 2019 Cotton Festival in Downtown Dunn. Dunn Daily Record Photo

“We’ve had a few obstacles through the years,” said Sharon Stevens, marketing director for Dunn Area Tourism Authority, in a recent release. “Rain, sleet/snow, high winds and hot temperatures but nothing that could have prepared us for this year’s issues in regards to COVID 19. The past five months have been hard on our economy and we realize the toll it has taken on our local businesses financially. With all of that being said, it is a difficult but necessary decision to cancel this year’s N.C. Cotton Festival.”

Planning for this year’s festival started almost immediately after the 2019 edition ended. Last year’s event featured more than 140 booths and vendors as Dunn’s annual downtown transformation proved to be one of the largest in its two-decade existence. A pair of sound stages hosted nearly a dozen bands and musicians, combining with an array of face painting, inflatables and cotton gin tours to create an environment that offered something for the entire family.

“None of this would be possible without the generous sponsors we have been blessed with year after year,” said Stevens. “For 21 years the Dunn Area Tourism Authority has tried to provide the citizens of the City of Dunn and surrounding communities with a one day fall event that would bring smiles to their faces, a good variety of entertainment, lots of arts and crafts, great food options, and just a good day to spend with family and friends. A lot of time and planning go into making the N.C. Cotton Festival the event it has over time grown to be.”

Despite the setback, Stevens said her organization is fully committed to bringing the festival back to Dunn in 2021.

“We want it to be bigger and better than ever before,” Stevens said. “We are already in the thought process of what we would like to see done for next year.”

The Cotton Festival joined the State Fair in Raleigh, Benson Mule Days, Angier’s Bike Fest and Crepe Myrtle Festival, the Four Oaks Acorn Festival, Denim Days in Erwin and Farmer’s Day in Coats as canceled events due to COVID-19.

-Dunn Daily Record