By Madison Sloan
Despite lingering concern surrounding COVID-19, the36th annual Cathedral Festival will still take place Feb. 26 through Feb. 28 at the grounds of National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche, 101 San Marco Ave.
Admission prices range from $3 for children and seniors to $5 for adults, but guests can also purchase ride tickets before and at the festival to enjoy a wide range of traditional carnival rides for all ages. Along with the carnival rides, guests can also experience an array of live entertainment, ranging from rock bands to baton twirlers, and even watch a firework show held on Saturday at 9 p.m.
Every year the fair holds its famous fried shrimp dinner and this year is no different. On Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. guests can purchase meal tickets to take part in the shrimp dinner, which will include fried shrimp, hush puppies, beans, and coleslaw.
Even though festivities will look similar to previous years, guests can also expect to see new COVID-19 regulations throughout the carnival. Debbie Yelton, an assistant to the festival’s chairman, played a big role in helping make sure the festival could still take place in a safe way.
“In order to ensure the safety of guests, we will have several COVID protocols in place. Guests will be required to wear masks and go through temperature checks for entry,” Yelton said.
Additionally, the ride company will have protocols in place as well, like cleaning the rides between riders and social distancing on rides, Yelton said.
When planning the annual event, there was an initial concern the fair wouldn’t take place due to COVID-19 policies. However, Yelton doesn’t think the health guidelines will stop guests from attending and taking place in the festivities.
“Judging from the crowds during the Nights of Lights and the amount of people on St. George Street during both day and night, we think attendance will be close to normal,” Yelton said.
Although the carnival may look a little different this year with social distancing and mask mandates, the annual festival is still an important tradition for not only the Cathedral Basilica but also for the town of St. Augustine.
For the past 18 years, Yelton has been working with the festival to help give back to the church and its community.
“The festival is the major fundraiser for Cathedral Parish School,” Yelton said. “All proceeds go to the school for repairs and upgrades. A lot of people in the community look forward to this festival every year.”
To help with the fundraising, the Cathedral Parish School is also looking for volunteers to work the festival.
For more information regarding the festival’s schedule, parking instructions, and the Cathedral Parish School, visit their website, http://thecathedralfestival.com/index.html, or social media pages.