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Saturday, May 30, 2020
COVID-19 Pandemic Coverage

ABC Festival committee pulls plug on this year’s event, looks to return in 2021

Wellesley may have apple butter and cheese on the menu this fall, but no celebration of the two, as the ABC Festival committee today cancelled this year’s edition.

“The committee came to the difficult but unanimous decision of postponing the festival until Sept. 25, 2021,” the organization said in a release today (Thursday).

Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak acknowledged that the decision was difficult, but necessary, adding he respects Apple Butter & Cheese Festival chair Jamie Reid and his volunteers for making that judgment.

“I think protecting all of the volunteers working there protecting people in the community seems to be their priority, and I respect their decision 100 per cent.”

Shuttering this year’s festival says “this is not worth the risk to the health of all our volunteers, vendors and patrons. This is about protecting people, family, and right now, there are too many risks and many unknowns,” Nowak added.

Though the decision comes on the very day Premier Doug Ford announced the first phase of plans to reopen the economy, remaining uncertainties and the prospect of second wave of COVID-19 cases made going ahead with even a modified festival too much of a risk, say organizers.

Chair of the ABC Festival Jamie Reid says,

“We are following suit with all other large functions in the area. Even though restrictions might be lifted by the end of September, we are a little concerned about how many people would actually come out and support our festival after what everyone has gone through,” said Reid.

He noted the committee felt there wouldn’t be a “mad rush to go out and be in a crowd of 30,000 people rubbing shoulders with strangers all day.”

The festival brings approximately 35,000-40,000 people to the Wellesley area and is also the host spot for the finals of Wellesley Idol competition, which will carry on in a modified format.

“We are still going to carry through to a showcase for the final three [contestants],” said contest judge and mentor JP Sunga of this year’s Singing competition, noting he’s still hopeful about the prospect of an in-person finale rather than a virtual one.

“If we can only have 20 people, is there a point to host that kind of event? Our preference is obviously to meet in person and be in the same room, since it is more fun. If that is an option and we can make it work, that would be great, but I don’t really think we know that at this point,” he said.

Reid has said that the prize money is still available if Wellesley idol chooses to carry on with the competition, the cancellation of the ABC Fest was unfortunate news for Sunga.

“I know a lot of people come from all over the place. It’s really sad,” he said, noting he would attend annually with his family.

Though the cancellation of a one-day event may have little detrimental effect on businesses in the village, the festival is a fundraiser for many local charities and community groups that will miss out on the funding.  With that in mind, organisers are looking at other options to support such groups, said Reid.

“We’re extremely upset and sorry we had to do this, but this is for the better health and safety of everyone involved. We are hoping to come back in 2021 bigger and stronger than ever.”

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