Ithaca Festival’s 2020 “Out of this World” theme seems ironic given current global circumstances. And much like other events scheduled for the next couple months, the festival will no longer be happening on its planned date.
The event’s leadership postponed festivities from its original date of May 28 to 31 to August 27 to 30, saying that the new date ”will ideally provide a safer and healthier time for [Ithaca] to celebrate,” according to a press release posted Wednesday.
Deciding to move the Ithaca Festival came from information they obtained from New York State, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health departments regarding social distancing measures. On April 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) extended the “New York State on PAUSE” stay-at-home xorder until April 29.
Despite the uncertain times, those in charge still plan on a festival to happen this year. In a press release from the Ithaca Festival Board of Directors and executive director Selena Hodom, the organization stated that they are committed to “making a festival happen in 2020 that supports our local small businesses, local economy, vendors, performers, and employees.”
The Ithaca Festival is a long-standing tradition in Ithaca which aims to “celebrate the artist in everyone” since 1977. Each year the Ithaca Festival includes an array of participants from vendors to artists and musicians from the greater Ithaca community.
Taking place over the course of four days, the festival includes a spring craft fair that showcases hundreds of food vendors, craft vendors and artists including jewelers and potters. In total, the event hosts over 70 live performances, a parade and a silent disco led by 12 local DJs. Due to the live-entertainment nature of the event, current societal restrictions cause great challenges.
“Being a presenting arts organization in a time where people can’t get together is difficult in general. I know a lot of organizations and businesses are feeling the strain of this at this time,” Hodom said.
The festival typically occurs in late May, after the spring semester and once students have left Ithaca. The festival’s new date now aligns with the return of students, as the fall semester is scheduled to begin on August 27 at Cornell and August 24 at Ithaca College.
“We do think it is great that the students would be able to enjoy the festival this year,” Hodom said.
Hodom headed coordination of the Operations and Technical Direction of the Ithaca Festival since 2014 and became the festival’s new Executive Director in 2020. Hodom told the Ithaca Times that the main goals for this year’s festival were to perfect the current festival and stabilize the budget to ensure that there are future festivals.
Hodom said the festival “was in a really good place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak,” as the number of participants, sponsorships and artists have increased from prior years.
Despite the postponement, the retention efforts appear successful. Approximately 80 percent of the festival’s vendors have been able to adjust their availability for the postponed date so far, which is good news for the festival and the many businesses which depend on the festival for their summer revenue.
As health guidelines continue to change during the ongoing pandemic, Hodom acknowledged the event’s future is still unpredictable.
“We certainly hope that we will be able to hold the event in late August. We are proceeding with caution and will yield to the experts on when it is safe to do an event like ours. Every day we learn more,” Hodom said. “We will not hold an event unless it is in the best interest of the health and safety of our community.”