Forest Festival Provides COVID-19 Health Guidelines

Published Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Texas State Forest Festival committee continues to work hard to ensure a safe environment for everyone during this year’s festival kicking-off Sept. 16-19.

The Forest Festival committee needs every festival-goer to do their part and most of all, be respectful of others and do the right thing. The current health situation makes for a challenging backdrop for the 37th annual Texas State Forest Festival, presented by Brookshire Brothers. Of course, we would love for everyone to attend the Forest Festival this year and continue the great family traditions that make the festival special to so many; however, we understand that some will be hesitant. We ask that those who attend do so because they are willing to follow our health guidelines – not because it’s mandated, but because it’s the right thing to do. 

The Forest Festival team is looking forward to bringing a new Sea Lion Splash Show and Danny Conner’s Reptile Adventures to the four-day festival. Plus, the Bear Hollow Wood Carvers will be back. Don’t worry, the petting zoo, festival sweets & treats, Lumber-JACKED 5K & Fun Run, Market Day, carnival rides and games will be at this year’s event. 

However, due to rising COVID numbers, the Festival committee made the unfortunate call to postpone the following events until Spring 2022: Pineywoods Car Show, 50th annual Southern Hushpuppy Championships, Big Axe BBQ Competition, and East Texas Cheerleading & Pom Pon/Dance Championships. The Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce Executive Board, Angelina County & Cities Health District, and local physicians have advised the Forest Festival committee to postpone all large gatherings scheduled inside the George H. Henderson, Jr. Expo Center’s main arena and outside barns.

“Over the past year-and-a-half, we have prided ourselves on being a leader in this community and doing our part to keep you informed on COVID-19 information, ways to keep your business afloat and successful during hard times, and we continue to be committed to doing our part,” Chamber President/CEO Tara Watson-Watkins said. “As much as we all want to get back to normal, until we can get our vaccination rate higher in Angelina County, we just can’t take the risk of exposing the hundreds of volunteers and my staff, as well as you - our community. We pray that you and your family will come and enjoy a fun event but plead with you to help us by following our recommended guidelines.”

During these times, we acknowledge that no event can be completely risk-free, and we’re counting on you to do your part to help us present as safe of an event as we can by following the below health guidance, which is subject to change: 

Get vaccinated. If you’re fully vaccinated, thank you! If you’re not, now is the time to be protected for when the Festival’s kicks-off Sept. 16. That’s the best thing you can do for yourself and for everyone, especially children under age 12 and others who cannot currently get vaccinated. It’s widely recognized that the vast majority of all current COVID-19 cases are among unvaccinated people. While we will not (and cannot legally) require you to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test to enter the Forest Festival, if you’re not vaccinated and plan to attend, we urge you to do your research, talk to your doctor, and consider a vaccine, both for your safety and the safety of others. If you can’t get one beforehand, our friends at the Angelina County & Cities Health District are offering free vaccines at the Forest Festival on Saturday, Sept. 18. More details to come.

Make an informed decision about attending the Festival. Before you visit, make sure you’ve considered your personal health situation and how you can best keep yourself and those close to you safe and healthy. The Texas Department of State Health Services has a comprehensive webpage on COVID-19 with the latest information on testing, vaccinations, symptoms, what to do if you feel ill, protecting yourself and others, and more. Visit https://www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/ for more info.  

Wear a face covering. Masks protect everyone. Plan to bring a mask for yourself and everyone in your party with you to attend the 37th annual Texas State Forest Festival. Wear a mask in the following settings if you are older than age 5 and medically able to wear one: 

  • Indoors, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, regardless of your vaccination status, can help protect you and everyone in close proximity to you. 
  • Outdoors in crowded settings, especially if you are not vaccinated. 
  • At some independent vendor booths who may require everyone in their booth to wear a mask. 

We are largely an outdoor event with plenty of eating and drinking. Mandating masks fairgrounds-wide would be extremely difficult for our organization to enforce, so we are urging you to pitch in and do your part by following the above guidelines. Simply put a face covering on for the time you’re shopping, attending a show, or visiting an exhibit. 

Again, we ask that you bring your own mask with you to the Festival, but if you forget yours, we’ll have a supply at our gates for you. Just ask at the gate attendant when you enter or at an information booth on the fairgrounds. 

Social distance. Please spread out when you can and wear a mask when you can’t. The fairgrounds are huge, and all activities are outdoors where social distancing is much easier. We’ve created more space in some high-traffic areas and we are adding many more outdoor seating areas. If one area of the Festival is busy, explore new places. Wherever you go, there’s plenty to eat, to do, and to see. 

Use hand sanitizer or wash your hands frequently. There are hand sanitizing stations throughout the barns and livestock areas, where it’s especially important to wash your hands after visiting the animals. 

Stay home if you’re not feeling well or you’ve had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. If within the 14 days before you attend the Festival you have tested positive or presumptively positive for COVID-19, experienced any related symptoms or been in direct contact with or in the immediate vicinity of any person who is confirmed or suspected of being infected with COVID-19, even if you do not have symptoms, please stay home. 

Most of all, please respect your fellow festival-goers. We’re all in this together. And please remember that some operators may be short-staffed due to labor shortages. Please practice patience and be kind to those who showed up to work and serve you at the 37th annual Texas State Forest Festival.

Please visit the CDC’s website for more information on how to protect yourself from COVID-19. 

CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html     

CDC guidelines for non-vaccinated individuals:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html  

COVID-19 is an extremely contagious virus that can lead to severe illness and even death. An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place regardless of precautions that may be taken. By entering the festival grounds, you voluntarily assume all risks, hazards and dangers related to exposure, contracting and/or transmitting COVID-19, and voluntarily waive all claims and suits against the 37th annual Texas State Forest Festival. 

To learn more about this year's Texas State Forest Festival, visit www.texasstateforestfestival.com