Decision to cancel Glenwood’s Strawberry Days as much about the now as the what-ifs come June
A decision to cancel this year’s Strawberry Days, though still more than two months out, was less about what might be come mid-June and more about what normally needs to be done now to prepare, according to festival organizers.
Several key decision points were looming in the next couple of weeks, sponsors needed to be secured, and event promotion typically begins by early May, said Angie Anderson, president and CEO for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.
“We also have a number of contractors we work with for things like portable toilets, fencing, the stage … all of that,” she said.
Given the uncertainty around the extent of public health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic come June 18-21, when the annual Glenwood Springs festival was slated, it was the consensus of the chamber board and other stakeholders involved in the discussions to go ahead and cancel, she said.
“There are so many moving parts, especially when you take into the consideration what needs to happen to line up our vendors,” Anderson said. “A lot them come from out of town, and need to be able to plan accordingly for the entire summer. To wait and maybe have to pull the plug at the last minute is just not feasible.”
Some of the usual vendors had already advised that they wouldn’t be coming this year, due to spring events being canceled and not having travel funds for the summer slate, Anderson said.
“Food vendors also depend on a certain amount of sales to make an event worthwhile for them to participate,” she said. “And, even if we were allowed to have it, we just weren’t sure if people would be ready to gather in crowds that large.”
The chamber formally announced in a press release late Friday that Strawberry Days would be canceled this year, for just the sixth time in its 123-year history.
“These are truly challenging and unprecedented times, and this decision was not made lightly,” Anderson said in the release. “We know how much this annual festival means to locals, visitors and vendors who attend; however, our priority is the health and safety of the community.”
According to the Glenwood Springs Historical Society, World War II was the only other world event to cause the cancelation of Strawberry Days, from 1942-1946 — although the official reason given in 1942 was “due to a shortage of ice cream and cake and the inability to obtain good entertainment.”
While Strawberry Days won’t happen this year, Anderson said there is the possibility of a different celebration later in the year.
“We hope to do something in late summer or early fall where we can bring the community together and help out our businesses,” she said.
Strawberry Days is just the latest among the Roaring Fork Valley’s summer festivals to be canceled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic that shut down Colorado ski resorts early and has resulted in other mandated business closures and strict limits on public gatherings.
Aspen already canceled two of its signature June events, the Aspen Food & Wine Classic and Aspen Ideas Fest. Other events have been postponed until later in the summer.
Carbondale also canceled all special events that had been scheduled in May, including the Festival las Americas and Dandelion Day, as well as the First Friday school arts showcase.
At this point, though, the July 24-26 Carbondale Mountain Fair is a go.
“We are moving forward with Mountain Fair and believe there will be a 49th-year fair,” Amy Kimberly, Carbondale Arts and Fair director, said in response to an email query last week. “We do think it might be a quieter fair, but who knows.”
As for Strawberry Days, Anderson said another consideration was that the city of Glenwood Springs is currently holding off on issuing park permits for events.
“We preferred to make a proactive decision rather than scrambling,” she said. “We felt it wise to put our efforts towards next year’s event rather than to continue forward planning for this June with so many unknowns.”
Cancelation of the festival also means that numerous associated events will not be happening in conjunction, including the Miss Strawberry Days scholarship contest, the Strawberry Shortcut foot race, the Kiwanis Club ball race fundraiser and the Rotary Club pancake breakfast.
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There will be a northbound single-lane closure on Grand Avenue/Colorado Highway 82 at South Hyland Park Drive between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday this week.