Fairs & Festivals Drop Like Flies as Pandemic Panic Drags On

RALEIGH – One after another, the fall season’s fairs and festivals are being cancelled in the face of Pandemic Panic. While we no longer even meet the definition of an epidemic, the worst case scenarios turned out to be Chicken Little imaginations, and new cases are more often among younger, healthy people instead of old, vulnerable people, the fear mongering and fear of liability is as strong as ever.

The Dixie Classic in Winston-Salem was culturally cancelled last year, in a sign of things to come, for having the word ‘Dixie’ in it. The name of the fair was changed to the ‘Carolina Classic,’ but, alas, the event has been literally canceled this year over the coronavirus.

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

“[…] City officials said that, because of the rising trend in positive COVID-19 cases in Forsyth County, along with the ongoing restrictions for mass gatherings statewide, this year’s fair is no-go.

This fall was to have been the debut of the Carolina Classic Fair, the new name that emerged last year to replace what for decades was the Dixie Classic Fair.

The 10 day fair, one of the biggest annual draws in Forsyth County, had been scheduled to take place October 2-11.

City officials said their top priority is to ensure the public’s safety during the pandemic. With annual fair attendance close to 300,000, city leaders are concerned there is no way to eliminate the risk of spreading the virus among fair attendees.

“We have been monitoring the statistics and the number of cases statewide,” said Assistant City Manager Ben Rowe. “We also saw the state had in place a limitation on mass gatherings. It was hard to believe that we could go from having no more than 25 outdoors to thousands.” […]”

The loss of the fair means a financial loss of nearly $700,000, instead of the gain of nearly $350,000 city leaders expected if even a reduced fair was allowed to go forward. It’s hard to blame the organizers, as they cite Cooper’s edicts in justifying their decisions to cancel.

Obviously, it’s not only in Winston that culturally defining community events are falling victim to the Pandemic Panic. Lexington has effectively cancelled its annual barbecue festival, one of the largest in the country.

“Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the October 24, 2020 Barbecue Festival in Lexington, NC, as we have come to know it, will not be held. With the potential of hosting 100,000-plus attendees, the festival would far exceed the current NC Governor’s Executive Order 151 that prohibits large gatherings,” said organizers.

That’s a shame, even if it’s mostly tomato-based.

Over on the other side of the state, organizers of the N.C. Seafood Festival has essentially cancelled this year’s event, which typically draws north of 200,000 people over three days and generates nearly $40 million for the local economy. Instead, organizers, while taking pains to avoid using the term ‘cancelled,’ say that the event at which people visit the Morehead City waterfront to eat seafood….will be held mostly online.

How you eat fish and funnel cakes online is anyone’s guess.

After being devastated by Hurricane Florence, an economic boost like that provided by the N.C. Seafood Festival would have been a welcome injection for the Crystal Coast.

Such is the toll of Pandemic Panic. How long will it last?

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