While adhering to social distancing and safety guidelines, thousands came out Saturday afternoon in Lindale to support local businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lindale Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the one-time-only Launch Local Festival after the COVID-19-related cancellation of annual festival, Countryfest, to provide families something to do and assist the local economy.
Shelbie Glover, president of the Lindale chamber, said the festival was wonderful with crowds of roughly 2,500 coming to visit small business booths, wineries, food trucks or listen to live music.
Lindale’s 36th annual Countryfest had to be canceled, but without the festival, many businesses were going to miss out on revenue.
So the chamber came up with the Launch Local Festival aimed at supporting small businesses hurting during the pandemic and to rally the community together, Glover said.
Over 100 arts and crafts and small business booths, 13 wineries and 10 food trucks participated in the festival on Saturday. Artists played their music throughout the afternoon on the Cannery stage.
The Lillie Russell Memorial Library hosted the Crossroads Classic Car, Truck, Jeep and Bike Show and the Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas brought its shred truck.
Local clothing store Back Down South Clothing Co. also hosted a duck calling contest.
Glover said the festival provided East Texans with a getaway and a place to do some early Christmas shopping.
“Our businesses are so grateful for the opportunity to sell during the pandemic,” Glover said. “For many of them, it’s their first festival in six months.”
Valle della Pace Vineyards and Winery in Lindale was one of the 13 wineries that came out to the festival to share their products and meet with community members.
Bethany Clark, daughter of the owner, said the Launch Local was the first festival the winery has been to able to attend since COVID-19 cancellations began in East Texas.
“I think festivals are really good because they help us get our name out in the community,” Clark said.
Meredith Price, owner of The Porch Food Truck at ETX Brewing Co. in Tyler, said people were upset to hear Countryfest was canceled because they wanted something to do.
Price said bringing the food truck to festivals like Launch Local helps supplement funds as the ETX Brewing Co. restaurant in downtown Tyler faces losses due to capacity and social distancing restrictions.
“To be able to have something to do and feel safe is super important,” Price said.
Darla Strickland, Lillie Russell Memorial Library ambassador and chairperson of the Crossroads Classic Car, Truck, Jeep and Bike Show, said the library was a part of Launch Local to support the small businesses that help the library.
“We’re a community driven library and we’re nonprofit,” Strickland said. “All these businesses were hurting due to COVID. This is a small thing we can do to help.”
A total of 122 cars entered the show, the library received over $5,000 in sponsorships and 100 shirts were all sold out, Strickland said. There was also a 50-50 drawing with almost $400 going to the library.
“Us trying to bless our community, we ended up getting blessed,” she said.
In order to have the festival, the city of Lindale had to give approval, the booths were 10 feet apart, several hand sanitizing stations were placed at the venue and organizers encouraged social distancing.
Glover said the chamber wanted to do anything to help businesses find success in 2021.
“The reason we did this is because the mission of the chamber is to help the economic welfare of the community,” she said.
Launch Local Festival was inspired by the pandemic, but Countryfest will return “bigger and better than ever” in 2021, Glover said.
She said Launch Local began with a gift card program to support small businesses and through that initiative, $15,000 was put into the local economy.
After the festival, the chamber will also have a holiday program in November and December to encourage people to shop local and give away cash prizes.