CLARION - Clarion Borough Council June 1 gave its preliminary approval to the return of the Autumn Leaf Festival Oct. 2 through 10.
There are a few "ifs," but the outlook for the return of the full festival looks promising.
The biggest obstacle aside from the unknown future impact of any COVID resurgence, is obtaining street closure permits from PennDOT.
Clarion Borough Police William H. Peck IV told council members he needed their OK to get started on the permit process.
"Each day (of the festival) is a different permit," explained Peck. "They (PennDOT) are going to look at each day as a separate decision."
The Autumn Leaf Festival usually includes closing Clarion's Main Street (U.S. Route 322) in front of the courthouse each evening and all of Main Street for most of the day during famers and crafters day and parade day.
Tracy Becker, the executive director of the Clarion Area Chamber of Business and Industry, said the chamber is working on details of the 16 ALF events it sponsors and is awaiting details on about 45 privately-sponsored events.
"I want Autumn Leaf Festival to happen this year," said Clarion Borough President Carol Lapinto.
In a telephone conversation with the CLARION NEWS, Becker said the biggest questions remain around the parade.
"That's what we get the most calls on," said Becker. "If the vaccination rate gets to 70 percent and the crowd restrictions are lifted, which they are right now, we'll be OK. But we also still don't know which high school marching bands will participate."
Almost all of the ALF events were canceled last year due to the COVID-19 emergency.
Council member Brenda Sanders Dede asked what will happen if COVID-19 is an issue in October.
"We can plan for it (Autumn Leaf Festival) but we have to be adjustable," said Becker. "We have to have a Plan B and a Plan C."
Council member Ben Aaron added, "We'll plan for the best and adjust for the worst."
Becker said she is encouraged by the fact Brookville was able to obtain street closure permits for its upcoming Laurel Festival.
Knox Borough is in the process of applying for street closure permits for its Horsethief Festival in August.
PennDOT opted to adhere to strict limits on the number of people who attended outdoor events last year when considering street closure permits. Those limits were lifted May 31.
According to PennDOT, special event permits are used to authorize temporary road closures and other event-related uses of PennDOT's right-of-way.
PennDOT does not permit or sanction the event itself, only the occupancy of the roadway.
Also, according to PennDOT:
All requests must be received by PennDOT a minimum of three weeks prior to the date of an event.
The applicant must provide a certificate of insurance showing public liability insurance for bodily injury and property damage in the minimum amount of $250,000 per person and $1 million per occurrence to cover any loss that might occur as a result of the permitted use of the state highways.
The applicant must provide a copy of a letter from the municipality in which the event is to occur, requesting permission to allow the event. Not necessary if the municipality is the applicant and event is within its boundary.
Events must adhere to all COVID-19 warnings and CDC guidelines at the time of the event.