No Festivals That Cancel Aren't Taking Away Your Freedom

A photo of the street festival
I organize.
 We saw them all last year, and they are cropping up again this year. Festivals small and large cancelling. A common reaction, at least in social media announcement post comments is something like this:
"Why don't you just have the festivals? If people want to go, they will go."
Is it that simple? Just hold the festival and let however many people are comfortable going show up?

Of course it's not.

But people with this reaction won't even take a minute to ponder the consequences, and not from a public health standpoint but to the festival itself. They have no idea what it takes to put one on and what is involved and what you can lose if you even have only 75%, let alone 50% or less attendance. Or if they even have the capability to put it on still. 

Let's take a quick, very quick, look at what goes into making this decision.

I am an organizer for a small street festival in Milwaukee so I have some experience and direct knowledge of what it takes to put one one, and at least some insight into what larger festivals like the ethnic festivals, Summerfest, and State Fair have to deal with. This could get long if I really went into all the ins and outs, but for brevity's sake, I am just going to list possible factors. Easily any one of these could be the reason for anyone to call off an event, but when you get to 2-3 or more, its easy to understand, if you just take a moment to try.

  • Profitability thresholds for most, many of which are non-profits, are paper thin. A bad weather year with a small percentage attendance drop can cause an event to be non-profitable, just imagine what 20-30% less, let alone 20-30% total attendance could mean.
  • Sponsors may not have the money, or be comfortable supporting an event with possible liabilities attached.
  • Speaking of liability, events have to have insurance. They may not have coverage for if it becomes a super-spreader event. The venue may require insurance the insurer won't give.
  • All events, even on private property, but especially on public, require permits. The community may not approve one.
  • Bands have to be booked, and cancelling closer may be detrimental. The pool is also smaller based on practice time, travel possibility, illness, etc.
  • Vendors may not be able to pay the booth fees or if they do and attendance is low they could have personal financial issues and even raise them back to the event if there is not sufficient attendance.
  • Food vendors may not want, or be able to in the space allotted at the festival, to accommodate for the safety requirements.
  • Events need volunteers, and that pool of availability is also smaller right now. Many volunteers are older and either may have gotten COVD, or don't want to risk getting it.
I am sure I am missing some, but those are the ones that come to mind based on my experience and just plain common sense.

I hope this helps any who think the festivals are caving to pressure by some 'cancel culture', understand there are so many other factors that go into making the decision, and even still, it is a difficult one to make. There is no conspiracy to control you, to take away our freedom to decide what to do. These decisions are made by groups of people making a tough but rational decision not to risk the event for many reasons.


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