Monett Chamber reshapes fall events

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Changes, additions planned for Festival of Lights

The Monett Chamber of Commerce has found that the final third of 2020 has become a much slower period that usual in light of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic disrupting many regularly scheduled events.

Jeff Meredith, executive director of the Chamber, usually holds classes for Leadership Monett in the fall, where most participants are employees of major industries. Those plans changed this year.

“We could have held a class, but it would have been entirely virtual,” Meredith said. “That’s not the class people wanted. They meet to go behind the scenes, to meet the leaders of Monett and for the interaction with fellow class members. Industries don’t have their facilities open for tours now.”

Just as Leadership Monett is delayed until 2021, so too has the Chamber’s contribution to Drury University’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP), which has a leadership training requirement for the grant recipients. The 2020 session started in February and got in three sessions before the pandemic shutdown. Meredith said the conclusion of the 2020 session will be combined with the 2021 training next year.

Other Chamber-sponsored events have also been put on hold. Plans were ready for another fly-in at the Monett Regional Airport, to show off the facility to the public as the next steps for expanding through the addition of a new runway begin. However, Meredith said some preferred to wait to give the public a view of what the airport will be after the expansion is completed. The next fly-in, then, may not take place for another five years.

Plans will proceed for the annual Festival of Lights at South Park, beginning the day before Thanksgiving. Only around five of the 50 slots remain open for community groups to participate as “elves,” meeting visitors at the end of the light displays, collecting donations to help cover the cost of electricity and handing out candy canes. Interested persons can contact the Chamber office at 417-235-7919 for details.

While there haven’t been new displays added in recent years due to maxing out the electricity resources in place, Meredith reported two new displays will be added this year. The Chamber has begun asking those who purchased displays to switch to LED lights, requiring 20 percent of the previous electrical demand and offering brighter light from more durable bulbs. Meredith said he would like to see all the displays transition to LED lights.

Those who have changed over provided enough additional electricity potential to make new displays possible. One will honor Benny Henderson, longtime host of the McDowell Gold Jubilee music show, and another will be placed by the family of Carol Stidham.

Greg Klein Electric continues to place the bulbs on the displays each year. The Monett Area Extended Employment (Sheltered) Workshop is installing the LED lights on most displays. One of those making the switch this year that requires more professional attention, in part due to its age, is the arch at the entrance, a multi-piece display that dates back to the beginning of the festival.

Meredith also reported a maintenance fund to support continued use of displays in the Festival of Lights is available through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. Families wanting to see a display they purchased continue in the annual event can make arrangements to support their contribution without relying on the next generation in their family to back the undertaking.

The Festival of Lights will run nightly through the end of the year.

The status of the Chamber’s annual Christmas parade remains open. Meredith said a final decision on holding the parade has not been made, but he tentatively plans to move forward with holding it on its traditional second Saturday in December date. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Monett Chamber, switching from the older Commercial Club. The mark the occasion, Meredith said the Chamber “may try to make this year’s parade bigger and better,” if allowed to proceed.

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