CEDARBURG — As more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, communities are faced with the decision to hold festivals or not.
The Festivals of Cedarburg Board voted unanimously to cancel Strawberry Festival in late June, citing CDC and health department guidelines.
"Their biggest concern was about public safety and what was recommended by CDC guidelines and by Ozaukee County Health Department," said Festivals of Cedarburg executive director BJ Homayouni.
Homayouni is not a voting member of the board and did not play a role in the decision to cancel.
In response to backlash for that decision, the board released a statement that reads in part quote, "We publicly stand by our decision to cancel the festival, given the number of people Strawberry Festival brings to our town and the uncertain health environment we are faced with. But it is important to know that the executive director and staff of Festivals of Cedarburg did not have votes in this decision, and should not be targeted.”
Homayouni says Strawberry Festival is the city's largest festival and brings in the most income. She says she is hoping to focus on planning the Wine and Harvest festival in September, as well as Oktoberfest.
Some businesses said the decision to cancel took them by surprise.
"We were really bummed out because at least for us here, festivals are about 25 percent of our annual income. A lot of these small business owners came to Cedarburg just for the festivals, because it is such a big deal around here," said Morgan Mueller, who works at The Shinery and Elements Unleashed.
The Shinery has started a petition to get the festival back on.
State health data shows more than 35 percent of people in Ozaukee County have completed their vaccination series. State health officials say about 1.5 million more people in Wisconsin need to be fully vaccinated to reach herd immunity.
Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Summerfest is on for September, and Irish Fest is on for late August. Organizers for Irish Fest say financials, volunteers and science played into that decision, and they say they are continuously working with the health department.
"If I can encourage each and every person who is watching and listening right now, go get a vaccine because everybody who does - that will make the opportunity for us to put on this event all that much stronger," said Mike Mitchell, the executive director of CelticMKE, the parent company of Irish Fest.