CEDARBURG — Festivals of Cedarburg is responding to backlash over the decision to cancel the Strawberry Festival this year, due to the coronavirus.
On Thursday, organizers announced that the popular festival would not be held June 26-27, 2021. Organizers argued current statistics and restrictions make it too difficult to predict what COVID-19 conditions will be like in June.
After the announcement was made, many expressed concern over social media that local businesses would miss out on the much-needed revenue the festival brings each year. Especially this year, under the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The President of the Festivals of Cedarburg Board of Directors, Jim Pape, issued a statement in response Thursday evening. Pape said the decision to cancel has become "very misunderstood and has caused disappointment and anger." Pape continued that there have also been "undue accusations and aggressions" directed towards the festival's Executive Director, BJ Homayouni, and her business, the Union House Cedarburg.
The Board's nine members voted unanimously to cancel the event, Pepe says.
Pape explained in the statement that the decision to cancel was not taken lightly, as the Board considered the safety of attendees, volunteers and service providers; CDC guidelines and recommendations; information they received from local health groups; the inability to enforce safety measures on a large crowd; the cost and hardship of following these guidelines during the pandemic; among other reasons.
"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," Pape wrote.
The Board President continued that Executor Director Homayouni and her staff did not have votes in the decision to cancel.
They "should not be targeted," Pape writes. "They have been working since January in every attempt to bring Strawberry Festival to our town, and will immediately shift their efforts over to future festivals."
Cedarburg's Wine & Harvest Festival is scheduled for September 18-19, 2021, and will be followed a few weeks later by Oktoberfest, scheduled for October 2-3.
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services' COVID-19 dashboard puts Ozaukee County, where Cedarburg is, as a county leading the state in vaccinating its residents. About 49 percent of residents have received one dose, and about 34 percent are fully vaccinated. Nearby Washington County, which shares a health department with Ozaukee County, reports 37 percent of residents partially vaccinated and 26 percent fully vaccinated.
It is expected a large number of people from other counties would have also attended the Strawberry Festival, adding to concerns over spreading the virus.