COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
One of Columbia's largest festivals kicked off on Wednesday while working to keep people safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, the True/False Film Festival was held in March with indoor seating in theaters across Columbia. That was right before state and nationwide lockdowns trying to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus went into effect,
More than a year later, the event looks much different with almost entirely outdoor screenings of films at Stephen's Lake Park.
The Director of Development and Communications for Ragtag Film Society Stacie Pottinger said from last spring, organizers knew they wanted to put on the event.
"We know we always wanted to do it if at all possible," Pottinger said. " As we started we knew it would be possible that we wouldn't get approved."
The big question was how to safely host a large scale event during a pandemic.
"We needed to plan as if it's happening tomorrow, so if we had the health restrictions in place that we had then, what would we do, so that's how we began planning," Pottinger said.
The three main things organizers decided on to be safe was is holding an outdoor event, masking, and social distancing. Pottinger said there are also hand-washing stations readily available throughout the event.
Attendees will reserve pods and sit with their groups. Masks will be required at all times unless someone is actively eating and drinking.
In order to keep things safe, Pottinger said they had to cut capacity to 40 percent of their normal sales.
In a normal year, the festival usually draws more than 15,000 people, and more than 45,000 tickets are sold to those individuals. This year, organizers are only expecting about 2,000 to 3,000 people, buying about 10,000 tickets.
"We've had enough people buying passes and tickets that we are going to make it through, but the business to the community is also just super important," Pottinger said. "We're just encouraging anyone to eat downtown, and then come to the park and have a good time."
Pottinger said the organizers hope next year the event will be able to move back to March and be fully indoors, but Columbia will still likely see outdoor screenings of movies.
"That's one thing we learned, that we could do this," Pottinger said. "It was really complicated in the beginning but we figured it all out thanks to our sponsors and supports."