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City leaders discuss Nederland Heritage Festival postponement, concerns & alternative

NEDERLAND — Municipal leaders in Nederland expect the 2021 Nederland Heritage Festival to take place this year, just not during the traditional March time period.

The mayor and city manager said a final decision on postponement is likely to be finalized this month, possibly during the city council’s Jan. 25 meeting.

“Looks like the consensus is it won’t be canceled, but it will be moved back, maybe into June,” Mayor Don Albanese said.

Albanese, City Manager Chris Duque and Fire Chief Terry Morton met last week with festival organizers for almost an hour.

“They are still discussing things. It was a very good discussion, a very frank and open discussion. I think everybody felt comfortable with pressing concerns, questions, etc,” Duque shared during Monday’s city council meeting.

Attempts to reach Festival Executive Director Shannon Hemby following Monday’s city council meeting were unsuccessful.

Discussion about the festival was not listed on the agenda, visitors were not allowed into city hall during Monday’s meeting due to COVID-19 concerns and it did not appear festival representatives were on Monday’s city council Zoom call.

Discussion on the issue took place during the meeting’s city manager report.

“I know there are a lot of questions going on,” Duque said. “No decision has been made about the Nederland Heritage Festival. That is still being discussed.”

According to Duque, there is a push to announce a festival postponement sooner rather than later to spare possible expenses spent by service organizations in preparation for the festival, which acts as a major fundraiser for numerous nonprofit community groups.

“If you are planning to move forward in March and then all of a sudden you cancel it two or three weeks out because we had another major (COVID) spike, what’s going to happen to all those clubs that have already paid for their supplies?” Duque said. “It’s already going to be a difficult year because of the COVID and then for them to absorb all those loses. Some of them will be able to sell somewhere else, but for some of them, this is their only fundraiser. It’s a huge gamble.”

Albanese said, as of right now, it would be difficult for carnival ride operators to clean rides with enough regularity during the event to satisfy crowd movement.

The mayor also said Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick was counting on positive impacts of the coronavirus vaccine by then, but added “we can’t take that chance.”

IN OTHER COVID NEWS, Police Chief Gary Porter said the Medical Center of Southeast Texas reached out to him Monday about scheduling Nederland police officers and first responders to receive the COVID vaccine.

Porter said a lot of NPD officers are young, in good health and not really worried about the virus.

“I think there is some anxiety of taking the vaccine, probably rightfully so,” he said before adding the Medical Center told him its doctors, staff and “everybody else are getting vaccinated, so if the doctors are comfortable, then I am.”

Duque said, hopefully, Nederland first responders see that others are getting vaccinated and are well after taking it, thus calming their fears.

The City of Nederland reported Monday it received information that the number of total positive COVID-19 test results increased to 1,185 with nine new positives over the weekend.

The confirmed number of active cases in the city is 348. The number of Nederland resident deaths linked to the virus is 14.