The coronavirus has killed hundreds of thousands of people in 2020 and made millions of others sick around the world. The way we live our lives has changed drastically now due to this virus and moving about our lives individually is no longer a luxury we can afford. Most of the time change is hard to get used to but sometimes the pill is a little easier to swallow knowing you are helping someone else.

COVID-19 has now claimed one of Logan County’s biggest events, which is hard for some to swallow considering the Tobacco Festival has been a steadfast part of our community since its beginning in 1941. The only other time the festival was canceled was during World War II.

So many look forward all year to that second Saturday in October, a time which brings the community together from the inside out, to share a piece of old fashioned bonding through funnel cakes and carriage rides along with a parade and bank robbery.

Out of the same love that the festival is known and created from came the tough decision recently from its organizers who called for its cancellation this year. It was a hard decision, one that wasn’t made in one setting but has been discussed now for weeks.

A special called meeting with the Barren River District Health Department on July 12 was held by those in charge of the festival to discuss alternate plans. However, it just didn’t seem safe to carry on Logan’s tradition in 2020 as if nothing were going on that threatens the safety of its members. The Logan County Chamber Board of Directors had to announce that all in-person festival events for this year would be canceled.

After months of watching the COVID numbers rise, large events were being canceled all around us, and the Chamber and Festival Committee was doing its best to come up with alternate plans to meet the state’s “Healthy at Work” regulations. Unfortunitly, organizers came to the conclusion that there is no feasible way to conduct this event and follow state regulations.

“The Chamber Board took all matters into consideration prior to making the final decision to cancel the in-person Festival events,” said Leann Martin, 2020 Chamber President. “Out of concern for the health and well-being of all our community members, the board came to this very difficult decision. We will continue to work to promote and develop strong vibrant businesses in hopes of maintaining the best quality of life for all of Logan County during this time of uncertainty and we thank the community for your understanding and your continued support.”

Karen Logan, Executive Director for the Logan County Chamber of Commerce knows the recent news will be sad for most.

“Just a few short months ago, we never would have guessed we would be facing the decisions that have been on our table this year,” said Logan. “I want to say how proud I am of our board. Serving on a board and making decisions that will affect our community is not always easy. Based on the best information given and with the Health Department here to guide us, they made that hard decision, in the best interest of our people. Although we are so sad to have to make this announcement, we will be back next year, ready to gather with those we love and come back to the reunion we all remember on Festival Day 2021. I look forward to seeing you all soon.”

Logan said she would like to thank the Festival Committee for all the work they have already put into this year’s events. The chamber and its volunteers would like to honor the tradition and history of our Festival and the community by presenting photos, old and new, in a video and on social media. If you have photos or a short video you would like to share, please email to or you can reach out by calling 270-726-2206.

Tobacco Festival History compiled by Mrs. Evelyn RichardsonThe annual Tobacco Festival is Logan County’s biggest event, attended by and participated in by more than any other activity held in this southcentral Kentucky County. The cities of Adairville, Auburn, Lewisburg, and Russellville, the county seat, plus unincorporated communities come together in the planning and staging of the festival which is sponsored by the Logan County Chamber of Commerce.

The Tobacco Festival had its beginning in 1941 and was a one-day event, coinciding with the opening of the Christmas season. Photographs document a parade with floats around the park that is centrally located within the town square.

Conceived as an annual event, the second festival was held in 1942. However, it ceased during the World War II years because of the shortages of time, labor, and materials dedicated to the war effort.

In 1957, the festival was revived and it has continued uninterrupted. A three-day program in November of 1957 featured the selection of a queen, various contests, floats, dances, and prizes. The length of the celebration was varied, but for the last two decades, the festival has consistently expanded and has covered approximately two weeks with additional events that may precede and follow the main time frame. The climax of the festival is a parade, scheduled on the second Saturday of October, with all other activities adjusted to fit before and after.

The main purpose of the festival, at its conception, was to focus attention on Logan County’s chief crop and to pay tribute to Russellville, the largest one-sucker tobacco market in the world. In 1956, tobacco was a $5 million industry for Logan County. In 1998, tobacco sales totaled well over $16 million in Logan County, indicating that tobacco was still very important to this area, both industrially and economically.

By the mid-1970s, the festival had taken on an added purpose — to call attention to Logan County itself. Traditionally, it is a time for examining and appreciating our heritage and for taking stock of progress and aspirations for the future. One observer stated, “The Tobacco Festival helps make us more conscious of ourselves as a community of friends and neighbors who live and work together.”

The festival is directed by a chairperson or co-chairperson who works under the sponsorship and oversight of the Chamber of Commerce and its staff. Planning is year-round. Numerous committees assume responsibilities for various functions. Clubs, organizations, and groups often carry out the same activities year after year. Examples include the Rotary Club’s pancake breakfast; the beauty pageant to select a Tobacco Festival Queen, and the Taster’s Luncheon, prepared and served by the women at the United Methodist Temple.

Numerous events, in addition to the above, are consistently a part of the festival schedule. One, in particular, is the reenactment of the 1868 robbery of the Southern Bank of Kentucky by the Jesse James gang. This event began in 1970, the play was written by Dan Early, director of the Community Theater at that time. Local attorney J. Granville Clark narrated the reenactment until his death in 1986.

You can learn more about Logan County’s Tobacco & Heritage Festival at the Logan County Public Library.