After Tater Day’s recent cancellation, there is hope to potentially host a 175th anniversary celebration for Benton later this year, if coronavirus concerns subside.
“We are planning the 175th festival,” Mayor Rita Dotson said, after last week’s Benton City Council meeting. “I don’t have a set date for that yet, but we will try to incorporate a lot of the Tater Day traditions in that, as much as possible.”
Meanwhile, City Clerk Bethany Cooper gave an update this Monday and said there haven’t been discussions yet or a date set.
At the March 16 meeting, Dotson discussed Tater Day festivities, its cancellation and consulted with council members about it. She emphasized the need to protect people.
“I am not in favor — I’ll just say it right upfront — of doing Tater Day,” Dotson told the council. “I think with school being out, with restaurants and bars closed down, with the pageants cancelled — the Kiwanis (Club) was unanimous on canceling — I just don’t think that we can put our people in Benton at risk to do Tater Day.”
Dotson said she’s kept up with news regarding COVID-19 — the disease related to the new coronavirus — and Gov. Andy Beshear’s news conferences, which provide updates and information about the state. She spoke with medical professionals, the health department and Beshear’s liaison too.
“I wanted the council to know before I put anything out there, officially, and give them a chance to voice their objections if they had any,” Dotson later said, adding that the council was supportive.
She described Tater Day’s cancellation as a “tough decision” that kept her awake at night, but thinks it’s best for the community. Tater Day festivities can attract an estimated 30,000 people throughout the entire celebration, providing the weather is good, Dotson said.
Tater Day is traditionally held the first Monday in April with related festivities starting the week before. It was expected to have vendors, carnival rides, the Tater Day parade and more events. The March 28 pageants have also been canceled.
Patricia Green, treasurer and Tater Day coordinator for the Kiwanis Club of Benton, said she and Dotson talked and felt like it couldn’t happen this year.
“The Kiwanis Club is in charge of the parade and the carnival rides,” Green said. “The carnival rides people called me ... to know what we had decided and we hadn’t decided anything at that point, but they were already on the road and what they do is they start out in Tennessee and then the next stop is coming to Benton.
“They needed some guidance. I talked back with them ... after the mayor and I talked and we just decided — we couldn’t do this, this year. We couldn’t put our people in danger and we couldn’t wait until the last minute because the carnival, they come from the Owensboro area.”
Both Dotson and Green indicated there were tentative plans for holding 175th anniversary festivities in June or July, if virus concerns had passed.
Green said the carnival is Kiwanis Club’s big fundraiser of the year, as the club receives a percentage of what it makes and the club gives back to children’s programs. She already spoke with carnival representatives to see if they could come during an anniversary celebration and organizers are looking at “possibly” having a parade then.