One of the most popular Thanksgiving traditions in the Arkansas State Parks System has been canceled this year due to concerns over COVID-19. The traditional Thanksgiving buffet at the Skillet Restaurant at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View has been enjoyed over the years by thousands of visitors, but this year the doors will be shut.
“We are sorry that this has occurred. There have been so many unknowns with this year,” says Jessica Sterlin, restaurant manager. “We are hopeful for this tradition to return in 2021.”
The annual event has been featured for multiple years as one of the Top 10 places to enjoy Thanksgiving by CNN Travel. Visitors come from many different parts of the state to enjoy the event and shop in the Craft Village at the park. The restaurant prepares extensively for the day, easily seeing four times as many guests as any other busy day.
“With COVID regulations still reducing capacity and the logistics of serving in restaurants, it was very difficult to see how we could provide the same level of service to our guests for this event,” says John Morrow, park superintendent. “Our desire is always to please, not disappoint. With the situation we are under, we feel that it is prudent to cancel for 2020.”
The Craft Village has traditionally been open on Thanksgiving Day at the same time as the restaurant but will also be closed this year. The Craft Village will be open free of charge on Nov. 27 and Nov. 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Artisans will be working and selling on these two days, as part of Green Friday and Handcrafted Saturday, alternatives to Black Friday, the traditional start of retail sales for Christmas.
“When you shop the Ozark Folk Center Craft Village, you are buying from independent small businesspeople that produce the items they sell. You can talk directly with the artisan making the items and buy one-of-a-kind presents. The variety and quality of their work is amazing,” says Jeanette Larson, Ozark Folk Center State Park craft director. “Since Black Friday is canceled, try something different this year. You’ll enjoy a unique shopping experience in the Ozark Folk Center Craft Village.”
Opened in 1973, the Ozark Folk Center State Park is the only state park dedicated to the “perpetuation, presentation, and promotion of the Ozark way of life in an educational and enjoyable manner.” Located just north of Mountain View, the park houses 20 traditional artisans on the Craft Village, the extensive Heritage Herb Garden and a 1,000-seat music theater. It is also the home of Ozark Highlands Radio, heard weekly on over 125 affiliates across the United States and worldwide online. The park opened the 2020 season in May and will be closing Nov. 7 this year. Traditionally open from mid-April into November, this year was abbreviated due to the coronavirus. The park anticipates fully reopening for the season on April 16 as part of the annual Arkansas Folk Festival. For more information, go to OzarkFolkCenter.com.
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