FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Michael De Koster
GLOUCESTER SCHOONER FESTIVAL 2020 CANCELLED
Treasured Annual Festival Yields to Pandemic
GLOUCESTER, MASSACHUSETTS (JULY 7, 2020) – The 36th Annual Gloucester Schooner Festival Committee has cancelled the annual Labor Day festival for 2020.
The Gloucester Schooner Festival is a signature celebration and one of Cape Ann’s most beloved cultural events. This gathering of schooners, hosted by Maritime Gloucester, is made possible by the volunteer efforts of over 30 people and local organizations who serve as committee members, as well as the many sponsors and donors who fund the event. When the effects of the pandemic started to close things down in March, Maritime Gloucester and the Festival Committee held out hope that there would be a window of opportunity by Labor Day.
“Despite the months of good planning and creating alternative options, the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the immediate realities of the data have given us no other responsible choice but to cancel this year’s Festival,” says Festival Chairperson, Daisy Nell Collinson, “We do not know where the actual numbers for Massachusetts will be by Labor Day, but everything we have seen from this virus so far shows us it would be reckless from a community health perspective to continue. As well as for the volunteers, schooner captains, and crews.”
Festival organizers point to the current rising numbers in states that have allowed large gatherings as a large factor in making this decision. “Each week, new information comes out that shows us we still do not know everything about the dangers of this virus,” Daisy Nell noted. “There was an immense push to plan alternative options and ‘wait it out’ hoping the data would allow it. But as we watched other states open to large gatherings and saw their numbers rise, our sense of caution shifted to action. Thinking it would be different here was something we eventually just could not justify.”
The Gloucester Schooner Festival is one of the largest events in the region. Organizers had hoped that the outdoor nature of the Festival, good planning on crowd control, and removing some events that promote large gatherings would allow them to still hold a version of the Festival this year.
“No one is more disappointed than Maritime Gloucester, the Committee, and the Schooners to not be able to offer the Festival this year,” states Michael De Koster, Executive Director of Maritime Gloucester. “While it is a difficult decision to make, we all know that this is the right call and needs to be done sooner rather than later. For the sake of our volunteers, organizers, sponsors, visiting schooners, and city officials, the time to cancel has to be now.”
This year’s Festival would have commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the International Fisherman’s Cup race. “Maritime Gloucester had planned a summer-long series of exhibits, visiting vessels, and programs that would have culminating in one of the best Schooner Festivals to ever grace Cape Ann,” added De Koster. “But the pandemic has changed those plans. We need to make sacrifices and smart decisions now so that we all can return to school, work, and promote the general health of our community.”
According to Daisy Nell Collinson, “The Gloucester Schooner Festival is about our community and getting as many people aboard these magnificent vessels as possible. As more and more Schooners are faced with financial concerns to come and the safety of their crew when they are in port, the unique spirit of the event started to disappear. All of the Schooners come at their own expense and we could not guarantee the festival would not be cancelled when they got here.”
Maritime Gloucester is looking forward. The 37th Annual Festival planning has started. “Without the revenues and sponsorships from this year’s events, we will need to work twice as hard to raise funds for next year’s celebration,” states De Koster. “Although we are cancelling our event, we cannot cancel the cultural importance and love of this Festival throughout the community.” Maritime Gloucester plans to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the International Fisherman’s Cup race by repackaging cancelled exhibits and programs into a series of events, virtual programs, and lectures throughout the coming year, leading up to a great 101st Anniversary and 37th Annual Festival in 2021.