By Aarron Fleming
Photo by Graham Sweeney
The annual Germantown Festival has been cancelled again this year.
The festival’s organizing committee announced the decision Monday in a statement on the festival’s website.
“Unfortunately, due to the increasing COVID-19 cases within our county and our concern for the public’s safety, the Germantown Festival Committee has decided to cancel the 2021 Germantown Festival,” the statement read.
The statement also said that the committee plans to proceed with next year’s festival which is slated to be held on Sep. 10 and Sep. 11, 2022.
Melba Fristick, the festival’s coordinator, said that the decision was made after the committee was presented with information by Jody Dwyer, Germantown’s fire marshal.
Dwyer could not be reached for comment.
Fristick said that the information was related to COVID-19 and the measures that the committee would have to implement during the festival to run it safely and limit virus spread.
While Dwyer represents the city of Germantown, Fristick said that the city government did not coerce the committee into cancelling.
She made clear that the committee is an independent, non-profit organization and that it made the decision on its own.
“It came down to the simple fact that we couldn’t provide safety,” she said.
Fristick said that social distancing and masking requirements were a part of the information that was presented to the committee.
Because of the way that the festival was organized, however, Fristick said that complying with the safety requirements proved too difficult.
As a free event, she said that the committee doesn’t operate an entrance gate which could control who comes in and out.
She also said that enforcing a masking policy wouldn’t have been possible.
Some of the kid rides were also too close together to provide adequate social distancing, she said.
This is the second year in a row that the festival has been cancelled.
It was cancelled last year due to the pandemic as well.
Fristick said that the back-to-back festival cancellations have had an impact on the committee’s fundraising initiatives and the money it has available to continue putting on the festival.
“We cut our expenses to the bone,” she said of last year’s cancellation.
She said that the festival doesn’t make a ton of money because it is more focused on bringing the community together than the money it raises.
During the festival, however, money is raised that helps fund scholarships for select high school seniors in the community.
According to the festival’s website, local community groups and organizations also use the festival to raise funds for their own activities.
Fristick said that the committee has money saved up for emergencies in the form of an annuity fund, but that the money is mostly used to cover the operating expenses for the following year’s festival.
The festival, which has been running annually for almost half a century, is normally held over two days, rain or shine.
It hosts of myriad of activities for Germantown community members, including children’s entertainment, arts and crafts and most notably, a dachshund race.
Several food trucks are also usually on site.
According to the festival’s website, kids can go bungee jumping, rock climbing, bounce in a bounce house and enjoy train and pony rides.
Clowns also make their rounds during the event offering children balloon animals and giving them the chance to get their face painted.
For the adults, over 400 local and regional artists sell handcrafted jewelry, pottery, metal, woodwork, garments, paintings and photography.
The festival also hosts the adorable Running of the Weenies race.
The race is an event where local dachshund owners pit their pooches up against one another in an intense battle to see whose short legs can sprint the fastest to the finish line.
Prior to the race, a Best Dressed Hot Dog contest is also held.
The contest, sponsored by the Germantown Animal Shelter, is a competition that tests owners’ creativity in designing the best costume for their weenie.
Fristick said that vendors and community members alike were disappointed in the decision to cancel the festival again but were understanding of the committee’s decision.
“They are disappointed, but hope we can do it again next year,” she said.