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story.lead_photo.caption A crowd swarms Court Street in downtown Fulton for a previous Morels and Microbrews. The popular event — which was canceled last year due to COVID-19 — returns Saturday from noon-4 p.m. Photo by Contributed photo

Garry Vaught could see what was in store with the coronavirus pandemic when the decision was made to pull the plug on Morels and Microbrews in early March 2020.

The deluge cascading from the sky on the event's scheduled date made the decision easier to accept.

"It was very surreal (to cancel)," Vaught — the owner of Beks — said Monday morning. "I must say, once we got to the day that it would have been on, I was quite relieved because it was raining like hell that day.

" They said (with COVID) we were just going to be shut down for six weeks, but that put us right at the date (for Morels and Microbrews) that we would be opening back up. I knew that probably wouldn't be feasible. I could see it coming and there was no way I was going to be able to pull this off."

Circumstances have improved quite favorably and Morels and Microbrews will return this Saturday for its ninth year in downtown Fulton. Vaught is one of the key figures in organizing the Fulton Brick District event, featuring mushrooms and craft beer, which is scheduled noon-4 p.m. down Court Street.

"It's awesome (to be back) for several reasons," Vaught said. "No. 1, it's an event that everybody looks forward to, we always look forward to. It's springtime, we all want to get out of the winter.

"But now since COVID, it seems like a big, long winter. I feel like everybody is super excited."

With the pandemic still looming, Vaught noted the decision was made for Saturday's event to cap the number of beer-sampling tickets at 600 and only sell them online. The tickets didn't last long, selling out in just 10 days.

Those with tickets must first register Saturday at the intersection of Sixth and Court streets, according to Vaught. They will receive a commemorative pint glass and a wristband that must be worn to sample beer, which will take place in the 500 block of Court Street.

Vaught estimated that 25-30 breweries will be offering beer samples Saturday, along with two distilleries and a winery.

"I think it's a great year considering that we kind of had to pull it off at the last minute," Vaught said. "I think we'll have just as many, or more, breweries this year as we've ever had, but with less people in there.

"I think it will make for a much better event for all of those who do attend, not quite as crowded."

Vaught pointed out that the beer sampling might actually play second fiddle to the morels, which will be available to everyone who attends Saturday's event.

Members of VFW Post 2657 in Fulton will start frying mushrooms near the intersection of Sixth and Court around 11 a.m. Other consumer options will include a soup made by Vaught with morels and Ohana Pizzeria offering small pizzas and pasta featuring mushrooms.

Fresh morels will also be for sale by the half-pound starting at 9 a.m. Saturday and the event will culminate with a live morel auction at 4 p.m.

"I would say that (the morels) are just as popular, or more popular," Vaught said. "There will be a lot of people here just to do that. A lot of people are going to come in just to buy some morels and eat some morels.

"I want to make sure everybody knows that they can come out, eat some morels — that part of the festival is still wide-open and really going."

The combination of mushrooms and beer will be complemented Saturday by a third component — the musical talent of The Kay Brothers, The Burney Sisters and MK Ultra performing onstage at the intersection of Fifth and Court.

"With that in the background, there's just something about a festival and the acoustics of the downtown here," Vaught said. "It's beautiful because (the sound) just kind of bounces off everything. You have this great hillbilly music there in the background and everybody eating morels.

"Of course, beer will change a lot of people's opinions about how their day is, anyway. We're feeling that everybody's going to be pretty happy — in fact, I figure by 2 o'clock everybody's going to have grins on their faces and smiles all over."

Vaught explained that there will be no restrictions Saturday, but that hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations will be available.

"Hopefully everybody stays within a (social) distance, hopefully everybody's safe, hopefully everybody who comes here is already vaccinated," Vaught said. "Here's the deal — we're going to be the one to start this party off and get back to normalcy."

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