Old Settlers scaled back to just fireworks

By Jared Janzen

HALSTEAD—There won’t be a Grand Parade at Old Settlers this year. There won’t be a Great Race or Little Great Race, or a community picnic on Sunday afternoon.

At this point, the 133rd annual Old Settlers Festival will only consist of a fireworks show on Saturday, Aug. 8.

“We plan, unless something drastically changes due to an outbreak, to only have fireworks,” Old Settlers committee member Cory Harrington said.

As recently as late June, the Old Settlers Committee had still been planning on holding a nearly normal schedule of events, but then the county began seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases. They made the difficult decision to scale back the festival on Thursday.

“We all have a passion for the festival,” Harrington said. “Many of us committee members grew up attending it. It’s gut-wrenching to cancel something like this.”

Harrington said the Old Settlers committee would meet again in two weeks to reassess where Harvey County is at with COVID-19.

“If things have calmed down and we feel a little more confident in where we’re at, we may try to add some Saturday night events,” he said.

These could include things like a cornhole tournament or an ice cream social, he added.

He said the committee hopes a fireworks show would mostly just be attended by local people, noting that the viewing area along the levy offers plenty of space for people to social distance.

Harrington said calling off so many Old Settlers traditions was a decision none of the committee had wanted to make, yet they had been unanimous in doing so in the interest of the overall health and safety of the community.

He said with schools supposed to start a week after the festival, the committee had especially been anxious not to do anything detrimental to increasing the risk for students and teachers.

“That was one of our main deciding factors,” he said.

No Old Settlers King and Queen or other award winners will be named this year, since the committee felt they couldn’t give them proper recognition.

“You’d feel gypped if you were the king and queen and didn’t get to ride in a parade,” Harrington said.

He said he didn’t think the committee would take much of a hit financially because they had already decided two months ago to cut some items that required early deposits, like inflatables and golf cart rentals for committee members. He added that they’d be reaching out to sponsors and asking if they wanted their donations returned, or if they should be carried over to next year.

Harrington expects Halstead businesses to feel the financial impact more than the committee itself. He noted that Old Settlers is normally a huge weekend for many businesses, as well as civic clubs and teams that use it as a significant source of fundraising.

Even though many Old Settlers traditions won’t be taking place, the committee isn’t saying the festival is canceled.

“We’re still calling it Old Settlers,” Harrington said. “Like one of our members said, you can’t cancel Christmas. We’ll still have Old Settlers and I’m sure there will still be people around, but to organize events where people congregate didn’t feel safe right now.”