It was a challenge to convert one of the Norfolk Arts Center’s most popular events to fit local health guidelines, but staff and volunteers were determined not to cancel another summer tradition.
This year, the fifth annual ’Fork Fest will still go on but with several edits — the biggest one being spray painted circles spread out around Johnson Park so visitors can social distance while still enjoying a night out.
The circles will be 10 feet in diameter and spaced 6 feet apart around the lower portion of the park at ’Fork Fest, which is Friday from 5 to 10 p.m. A maximum of eight people are allowed in each circle, which are first-come, first-serve, at the park, which is at First Street and East Prospect Avenue.
Visitors are recommended to arrive in their groups and bring chairs, blankets and beverages, including alcohol, from home to hunker down and stay in the circle they choose — intermingling circles is prohibited.
“Everyone rallied to put this thing together and do it the safest way possible, but while keeping the integrity of event,” said Sara Putters, Norfolk Arts Center program coordinator. “One thing the governor will not allow for at the large events is any mingling, so we encourage if you are coming to an event come with people you want to sit with so you can sit by friends and families. We ask attendees stay in the circle.”
The event also will be different from previous years because of the absence of traditional “Food Truck Rumble,” where about 10 trucks distribute samples to be judged by visitors. This time there will be four food trucks serving their regular menu throughout the event: Fire and Ice Seafood, Uncle Jarrol’s Pub-B-Que, Taylormade Catering and Taylor’s Treats.
Along with the Norfolk VR (Virtual Reality) Truck, visitors will be able to enjoy live music. The following local and Norfolk Arts Center First Friday performers are scheduled, according to the event website: Pure Brown; Tucker Hill; Citizen’s Brigade; The Midland Band; Ryan and Stacy Rabe; Chris Votta; Nick Leland; and Marissa Carr.
A sidewalk sale also will feature items available from local artists and businesses.
Putters said that she expects this year’s ’Fork Fest to break turnout records.
“Last year, we had more than 1,000 people, and this year we expect to double that,” she said. “Mainly because there hasn’t been much to do this summer, we feel people are going to come out and support just because they love ’Fork Fest and they want something to do.”
The event will have about 200 circles to accommodate the crowd and follow local health guidelines. While she is comfortable that there will be enough circles for everyone, Putters said if they all become full, people can still sit outside of the event’s fencing in the park to keep social distancing and enjoy ’Fork Fest.
Event security will be enforcing guidelines, especially the eight-person per circle rule, Putter said. The Norfolk Lions Club is supplying the majority of the ’Fork Fest volunteers and food trucks will be implementing their own safety precautions, such as using plastic barriers while serving customers.
“For good reason, we have been cooped up, but at this point in the summer with kids returning to school, people are really ready to get out in the community and do something fun and engaging,” Putters said. “We are ready to present that opportunity to the community, and it’s very important to us. It has remained our top priority throughout the planning process and want it to be something people remember.”
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