Curwood Festival returns to Owosso after one-year COVID-19 hiatus

Organizers expect a record turnout this weekend after canceling the festival last summer
Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 7:23 PM EDT
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OWOSSO, Mich. (WJRT) - After a one-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, many community festivals are returning to Mid-Michigan this summer.

Shiawassee County’s 44th annual Curwood Festival opened its doors Thursday after a one-year break. The festival celebrates James Oliver Curwood, who lived in Owosso at the turn of the last century and was one of the most well-known authors in the world during that time.

The festival just got underway Thursday afternoon with the usual chicken tenders, elephant ears, Italian sausage, carnival rides and games. People who came out for the early event were ready to get back out and enjoy themselves with no COVID-19 restrictions.

Michigan’s outdoor COVID-19 restrictions ended on Tuesday as part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s accelerated MI Vacc to Normal plan. That means festival-goers won’t need to worry about a face covering, social distancing or capacity restrictions for outdoor events.

“Eighty-five percent of our staff is fully vaccinated beyond those two weeks, and because we are outdoors we do not have to adhere to the mask mandate anymore,” said Carly Vertz with Skerbeck Carnival.

She’s anticipating a good turnout with this year’s festival after it didn’t happen at all last summer because of the pandemic.

“I think it’s going to be a bit of a homecoming,” Vertz said. “Maybe you’re feeling a little nervous because unfortunately 2020, nobody was allowed to get out like that. However, we’ve noticed in other parts of the state and other festivals we’ve been going to, people are just conscious of their space.”

A shortage of volunteers means the Curwood Festival will be lacking the annual canoe and raft races and the youth fishing derby. The festival’s beer and entertainment tent also won’t appear this year.

But Owosso Public Safety Director Kevin Lenkart, who also sits on the Curwood Festival board, said he’s anticipating record crowds despite those drawbacks.

“The community is ready to come out,” he said. “We’ve heard nothing but positive feedback in the weeks leading up, and now that the rides started arriving yesterday, there’s been a lot of chatter on social media. People are excited to come out.”

The Curwood Festival continues in downtown Owosso until 6 p.m. Sunday.

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