After a glimmer of hope the Harrison Festival of the Arts may be moving forward this summer, it has been officially cancelled.
Due to concerns surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Harrison Festival Society and its board of directors announced Wednesday morning that the 2020 Harrison Festival of the Arts is no longer happening.
In late March, the Festival Society previously announced a “cautious” move forward as they were scheduled to announce the upcoming lineup in mid-May. Unfortunately, this was not meant to be.
“For over 40 years, the mission of the Harrison Festival Society has been all about celebrating culture and community,” said executive director Andy Hilhouse in a statement. “We have furthered this mission primarily through the July Festival of the Arts with live concerts on the beach and in the hall, art exhibits, theatre, literary readings, children’s programming and a vibrant artisan market. Sadly, in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will not be able to produce our cherished annual summer festival.”
Hilouse stressed the paramount concern of safety and health not only for the attendees but for the artists and the volunteers.
“We feel it would be irresponsible to produce a live event that puts the safety of [our volunteers] at risk, and of course the safety of the audience, staff and performers,” Hilhouse added.
Hilhouse went on to say the cancellation heeds the instructions of provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who said on her April 18 update, “Realistically, we will not be having those big events where people gather this summer. Those types of large, mass gatherings, this is not the time for that.”
The loss of this year’s Festival of the Arts is certainly a blow to an already empty summer with so many concerts, festivals and other special events on an ever-growing list of cancellations. However, Harrison Festival Society staff are looking for ways to have fun.
“While we may not be able to gather and dance with our friends to a live band in the Memorial Hall or gaze out on the lake as we meditate on the skills of a masterful musician, there are other ways we can get our social and cultural buzz in this time of limited social intimacy,” Hilhouse wrote. “The festival staff are currently exploring such options, whether virtual, or, if possible, at a safe distance, we will keep you informed as these activities develop.”
Hilhouse encouraged Festival fans to keep an eye on social media and to keep in touch as they look forward and continue to plan.
“We see this as an opportunity, even while we admittedly feel brokenhearted that we will not be able to have the July celebration that we look forward to all year,” Hilhouse concluded. “We are committed to providing the cultural heartbeat and human connections we know folks yearn for in these strange times.”