LACONIA — The 2020 NH Pumpkin Festival, an October event that generates large crowds of paying customers for local businesses, has been canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Karmen Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber said Thursday.
“Hosting a festival is not a socially responsible path forward for NH Pumpkin Festival due to the uncertainty we face as well as the government-issued guidelines prohibiting large public gatherings for the foreseeable future. It is a heartbreaking decision, but as community leaders the chamber board of directors and staff understand the importance of social responsibility," she said.
"Safety is our priority, and this is the right decision. We know full well that this event brings in revenue for Lakes Region businesses beyond downtown Laconia to local attractions, restaurants, retail and lodging.”
She said planning is underway for smaller fall events.
The Pumpkin Festival is is one of many events that have been called off. Organizers have decided not to hold the Greek Food Festival, the Laconia Multicultural Festival and various Old Home Days.
Motorcycle Week, set for Aug. 22 to Aug. 30, is being scaled down. There will be no vendor or beer tents at Weirs Beach. The Jewish Food Festival will be takeout only.
At the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion, shows have been canceled involving Sugarland, Chris Young, Steve Martin & Martin Short, Incubus, The Black Keys and 5 Seconds of Summer.
Large gatherings are problematic under state recommendations urging 6 feet of separation between individuals and groups. Facial coverings are recommended when that separation isn't possible.
The state Tourism Department has launched an initiative to appeal to those who may not be diligent about wearing face coverings. The catch phrase is, “Don’t go viral. Wear your mask.”
One potential concern for festival organizers and businesses is the potential for liability if a visitor catches the virus. Fear of the disease could dissuade people from coming in the first place.
Christopher Tsakiris, president of Taxiarchai Greek Orthodox Church, said the pandemic has greatly disrupted church operations.
“The food festival is canceled,” he said “Maybe next year. The fact is we haven’t had a liturgy since the shutdown.”
A note on the Temple B’Nai Israel website says that the New Hampshire Jewish Food Festival is 23 years old but that this year will be different. People will take their food and leave. There usually is a tent set up outside the temple where people can nosh on site.
Blintzes, matzo ball soup, brisket, knishes, kugel, rugelach and challah can be ordered at www.tbinh.org from July 27 to Aug. 10 and picked up curbside by appointment.
Old Home Day celebrations have been canceled in Gilford, Belmont and New Hampton, among other places. The always-popular Sandwich Fair is another casualty of the pandemic.
This would have been New Hampton’s 122nd Old Home Day.
The town posted a message on its website, saying the Board of Selectmen had called off the annual event.
“The board considered various ways to continue this tradition while maintaining safety for the organizers, Town departments, residents and visitors. With the precautionary measures that would have been necessary, the resulting celebration would not have looked like an Old Home Day - where attendees can get together to socialize and enjoy food, music, and dance.
“As we are all discovering 2020 will not be a typical year for many activities, but we are hopeful that Old Home Day will return next year on Saturday, August 14, 2021.”