After a year full of postponed and cancelled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chambersburg residents saw a bit of light at the end of the tunnel with the 2020 Apple Fest on October 17. As an annual celebration of the autumn apple harvest, Apple Fest is one of Chambersburg’s best-known traditions, and with modifications that attempted to accommodate a high volume of guests while allowing for social distancing measures to be put in place, it was able to proceed as scheduled. The number of vendors and visitors was significantly lower than it has been in past years (likely due to travel restrictions), but staple attractions such as food trucks, handmade jewelry and crafts, furniture, and plenty of apple-based desserts were there for visitors to enjoy. Some shops offered special sales to encourage visitors to stop by, but many did not seem to enforce capacities or attempt to encourage social distancing within the stores. This is a stark contrast to many other businesses around the country, who regularly set limits on how many people can be inside at a time with sanitization stations inside the doors or nearby that were absent in most of Chambersburg’s downtown businesses.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were several key changes to the way the event was run. Rather than shutting down the streets to accommodate vendors as usual, there were several stands set up in various parking lots throughout the downtown area, which allowed more space to be left between each booth so guests could maintain distance. Still, that often did not stop people from crowding within the booths, since many vendors were still set up under relatively small tents without enforcing maximum capacity limits. There were hand sanitizing stations set up throughout each of the lots, especially in areas with higher concentrations of food vendors. Most food stands did not have condiments out for public use, although some handed out individual packets of sauce and seasonings. However, despite the fact that there were regularly posted signs asking that shoppers wear masks when approaching vendors or around other visitors between lots, it was all too common to encounter maskless visitors. In many cases, even those that did wear masks wore them incorrectly, either around the chins or under the nose, rendering them essentially useless. While some of the preventative measures in place may have helped to stop this event from allowing the virus to spread on a large scale, the lack of enforcement may prove to contribute to the rising cases of COVID-19 in Franklin County.