The absence of one of Greeneville’s premier annual events this past weekend didn’t keep people from enjoying the outdoors.

The annual Iris Festival, which signals the advent of summer in Greene County, was another casualty of precautionary safety measures taken during the coronavirus pandemic.

Downtown Greeneville had a distinctly quiet air over the weekend, but for families like the Gabys, Depot Street was a perfect place to enjoy a warm, sunny Saturday.

“We just hike. We get out and walk a lot and do a lot of arts and crafts,” said Beth Gaby, walking with husband Shane and daughters Kylee and Kinnley.

Safer-At-Home restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted many people to get creative with ways to spend their spare time.

Not having accustomed commitments in recent weeks, Beth Gaby said her family has had more time for activities together.

For 7-year-old Kinnley, fun family activities include making “slime,” a mixture of school glue, saline solution, baking soda and food coloring that creates a gooey substance popular with kids.

On Saturday, the family was looking in on some of the small downtown business that recently reopened. Other years, the Gabys probably would have been enjoying the Iris Festival.

But for the time being, “We’ve walked a lot,” Beth Gaby said.

Tashia Dupkoski was also strolling downtown Saturday afternoon. It was a rare day off from work for Dupkoski, who is dietary supervisor at Hawkins County Memorial Hospital.

Earlier on Saturday, Dupkoski and her mother went to David Crockett Birthplace State Park in Limestone.

“We just sat by the water. It’s kind of calming being out in nature. We were able to keep our distance (from others),” she said.

Dupkoski and her family also regularly attend the Iris Festival, and she understands why it is not being held this weekend.

“I love Greeneville, and I love to walk downtown,” she said.

As a frontline health care worker, the Greene County resident is keenly aware of the actions of those around her, including following distancing recommendations.

“We definitely encourage everybody to do their part,” Dupkoski said.

Others enjoy being outside and tilling the soil. Curtis Davis, owner of The Garden Basket on Tusculum Boulevard, said the stay-at-home order has led to an increase in business, both in sales of plants and produce. Some people prefer not to shop at larger retail outlets, Davis said.

“We haven’t slowed down one bit,” he said.

Phyllis Murdock, who lives just outside Greeneville, was selecting plants for her garden. Murdock has been laid off for about one month from her job but will return to work on Monday.

Murdock has mixed feelings. She said the time off from her job was the first such break in 23 years and allowed her to spend more time with her granddaughter and other family members.

“I just got used to it. I enjoy gardening and spending time with family,” Murdock said. “Last Sunday (on Mother’s Day) I got to go down and spend time with my mother.”

While the 26th annual Iris Festival has been canceled this year, event organizers on Facebook promise “a new and exciting fall festival,” with more details to be released in coming weeks.

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