The COVID-19 pandemic, which has already wreaked havoc on major events scheduled in and around the city of Durant this spring and summer, has also forced the postponement of one of the area’s premiere annual events.

Durant’s Magnolia Festival has been held the weekend following Memorial Day for the last 23 years, bringing with it thousands of people from not only the Texomaland area but throughout the country.

The event has been rescheduled for Nov. 5-7 at Choctaw Event Center.

Lengthy discussion about scheduling had to be made in order to secure the new date, but organizers wanted to be sure to continue the tradition of the festival in 2020 and avoid canceling it if possible.

“We waited as long as we possibly could before postponing,” said Durant Area Chamber of Commerce Director Janet Reed. “The Magnolia Festival has always been the weekend following Memorial Day to coincide with the normal bloom of the magnolia. It was a very difficult decision to move it but in lieu of all the current circumstances, and bringing as many people as we do to the area, there was no other choice.

“This is a difficult time and it was a difficult decision for us. We’ve had as many as 100,000 attendees in a weekend before and there is no way we could bring that type of gathering here right now. The Magnolia Festival Committee has been committed to observing the recommendations put forth by public health officials since the beginning of this unprecedented situation. The most current information released by government and healthcare officials continue with the recommendations to consider postponing meetings and limiting attendance throughout the spring and summer months.”

Durant area events such as Dancing With the Stars (now slated for Aug. 29) have already been rescheduled after postponement, so finding new dates that worked for all involved with the Magnolia Festival was a time-consuming process.

The Magnolia Festival Committee first had to find open dates for usage of the Choctaw Event Center, followed by free dates for the carnival event outside, which is a highlight for area youth.

While the new dates will likely cut into the number of attendees, committee members felt it was imperative to hold the festival sometime this year before returning to the normal schedule of June 3-5 in 2021.

“There were so many things that factored into a new date however,” Reed commented. “We had to be very practical on a date that worked when the facility was scheduled to be free and when the carnival people were also available. We also wanted to make sure the casino back up and running as well.

“We are hoping all of our exhibitors still can come on the new dates. We are sending out information to all the exhibitors and vendors this week. Most of our vendors are offered discounts at local hotels and RV parks during the normal dates, so we are still trying to get information on whether that is a possibility in November as well. There are a lot of things involved in scheduling an event of this magnitude.”