Thursday, July 23, 2020

Plymouth Fall Festival 2020 is cancelled

Photo by Helen Yancy
One of the oldest and most revered traditions in the area has been cancelled due to the COVID19 pandemic.
The Plymouth Fall Festival, the 64-year-old event that filled the entire Plymouth downtown for three days each year, will not take place in 2020, in an effort to protect the public from the threat of the corona virus epidemic.
The cancellation was “obviously for safety reasons. We have to keep the public safe,” noted James Gietzen of JAG Entertainment, the company that produces the event and books the live bands that attract huge crowds to Kellogg Park during the weekend.

As it has for 64 years, the event this year was set for the weekend following Labor Day and would have taken place Sept. 11 through 13.
“With great sadness, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Plymouth Fall Festival. The health and safety of our vendors, volunteers, and guests who attend the event are our priority. We are looking forward to the 2021 Plymouth Fall Festival and continuing to support our local community groups,” Geitzen posted on the official Fall Festival Facebook page.
Plymouth Noon Rotary Club President John Buzuvis said that the Chicken Barbeque at the Fall Festival is the largest fundraiser for the club which usually generates from $40,000 to $50,000 annually, funding that is then directly invested back into the community.
“We award a lot of scholarships to area students,” Buzuvis said, in addition to contributions to United Way, First Step, Kids Against Hunger, literacy programs and a host of other community services.
“We partner with other clubs to fulfill our driving goal, to serve the community,” Buzuvis said.
The festival was founded by members of the Plymouth Rotary Club in 1956 in an effort to generate funding for playground equipment at a park at the end of Wing Street. While about 500 people attended the first event which was scheduled in May of that year, the crowd last year was estimated to have exceeded 20,000 visitors, and 10,500 of them enjoyed the famous Rotary Chicken Barbeque dinners. The event has grown to include a midway which attracts hundreds of people, along with amusement rides and vendors lining Main Street with booths. It has also become one of the main events for several other service clubs including the Kiwanis Club which hosts an annual pancake breakfast, the Optimist Club Pet Show, the Spaghetti Dinner hosted by the Morning Rotary Club of Plymouth and the Civitans Taste Fest, along with many others. The events have become an annual tradition with Plymouth residents and attract visitors from throughout the area each year.
Eric Joy, president of the Fall Festival, said the uncertainty of state mandates and safety procedures were the determining factor in the decision.
“We just don’t know what the situation will be,” Joy, also a Rotary Club member and past president, said. “We all have to  accept the new normal.”
Geitzen, who is also a Rotary Club member, said that the club members are considering a drive-through food donation effort for the weekend, in light of the number of civic service groups who usually receive funding from the barbeque each year.
Buzuvis agreed, noting that the club is looking forward to next year and making plans “as much as anyone can in this current situation.” He said the club is considering several other ways to give back to the community but that “the way we do things may have to be different.”
“Our goal is to support the community,” he said, “and we are going to do something, maybe several smaller things. It's difficult to replace an event of this size.” Buzuvis, a lifelong Plymouth resident, said the club members are well aware of the impact of the pandemic on the local service agencies. He said help will be needed “more than ever” by several of those that receive support from the Rotary Club.
“People need assistance of whatever kind,” Buzuvis said, “and we are working with the local agencies to try to find out what the needs are and then address them as best we can.”
“We're already making plans for 2021,” Geitzen said.”