For the first time in the festival’s 33 years, "Riverfest" in Mendon has been canceled.
The festival was scheduled to take place Aug. 13-15.
Organizers said the decision was difficult, but was one that had to be made.
Spencer Howe, in his second year as president of the festival board, said both he and vice president Roger Cupp had been discussing potential cancellation for months. They looked to other festivals in the county and delayed the decision as as long as possible.
“This was very hard for me personally, and hard for the group,” Howe said. “I’ve thought about this every single day for the last three months since we all first learned of COVID-19. When we actually came to the time that I had to push this to a vote with the board, I had a few sleepless nights.”
The official vote was carried out by email, which is one of the main forms of communication by those on the board. The vote, which took place last week, was a unanimous 6-0 to cancel the festival.
Unknown factors surrounding COVID-19 played a key role in the decision, as did considerations about planning. Howe said even if there is a significant change regarding the virus sometime soon, the festival would not be able to get off the ground in time.
“We also face the inability to acquire sponsorships in such a tough time. We rely on our sponsors to fund the festival,” Howe said. “We couldn't do it without them. With the current state of the economy, especially small businesses, it just simply wasn't in the cards this year.”
There was no outside pressure to cancel the event, Howe said.
“I took into consideration the opinions of our board members,” he said. “I had spoken with close friends and family about it who knew this was weighing on my mind, and it just became reassuring that this was the best decision to make. At the end of the day, we also felt that if we were able to carry out the festival that our turnout would take a hit due to the lingering fear from COVID-19. We felt this was the best decision to make, especially when considering our community and keeping everyone safe and healthy.”
Despite the festival being canceled, Howe said there is still the possibility for some community activities in summer 2020. Organizers have not ruled out the chance for a parade or a fireworks show. But that, Howe said, also may depend on how the COVID-19 situation progresses.