With several familiar warm-weather fixtures around the state already delayed or deep-sixed by the COVID-19 crisis, organizers of fairs, festivals and other crowd-drawing spring and summer events are reluctantly facing decisions about what to do.
The New Hampshire Renaissance Faire, which brings thousands of visitors and performers to Fremont during its two weekends in May, already has been canceled and won’t be rescheduled this year.
Marghi Bean, who helps organize the Renaissance Faire, said canceling was a difficult decision. The faire’s board members “went round and round trying to find a way to keep it going, but there just was no way,” she said.
The faire is a complicated arrangement of performers, merchants, food vendors, musicians, jousters, knights, belly dancers and numerous wandering acts and about 150 volunteers.
It’s also hard to reschedule because vendors planning to attend the Fremont event likely have already committed to other Renaissance Faires in New England.
The faire is a charity event that donates between $40,000 and $50,000 each year to the New Hampshire Food Bank and Meals on Wheels.
“For me, that breaks my heart,” Bean said
The Stratham Fair in July traditionally kicks off fair season in New Hampshire, but its volunteers aren’t sure what will happen this year.
“We’re monitoring the situation and we’re going to be making a decision,” said fair chairman Francisco Marin.
The fair, which is the largest fundraiser for the Stratham Volunteer Fire Department, takes months of planning, which often begins as soon as the last fair ends.
With this year’s fair dates just a few months away, Marin said a decision about what will happen this year will likely be made soon.
Marin said he couldn’t recall the fair ever being canceled.
Organizers will be looking to see what other fairs are doing.
According to officials from the New Hampshire Association of Fairs and Expositions, member fairs are proceeding with plans but figuring out how to pull the plug if necessary.
After the Stratham Fair, which runs from July 16 to July 19, the North Haverhill Fair is scheduled for July 22 to July 26. Other fairs will be held from late July, August and September, with the season coming to an end in October after the Sandwich Fair.
Pro Portsmouth announced Wednesday that the 43rd annual Market Square Day street fair and 10K road race — usually held on the second Saturday in June — have been moved to Sept. 26.
“We will continue to watch the public health recommendations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic over the next several months. We recognize that we may have to make some changes to the festival and race as the situation evolves, and we’re committed to doing so,” Executive Director Barbara Massar said in a post on the organization’s Facebook page.
In New London, the board of directors at the New London Barn Playhouse has decided to cancel all scheduled in-person productions, programs and classes for its upcoming summer season.
“Without knowing whether it will be safe, or even permissible for large groups of people to assemble, it was determined that we could not move forward while taking into account the safety of our patrons and staff. Such uncertainty also caused tremendous concern due to the preparations and significant financial commitments required to produce the season. This was an extremely difficult decision and was not taken lightly,” Keith Coughlin, executive artistic director, and Pam Perkins, board president, wrote in a joint letter.
Portsmouth’s Prescott Park Arts Festival, which begins in late June, is also in limbo.
Two musicals, 25 concerts and a Monday night movie series are planned. Officials are keeping a close eye on the spread of the coronavirus and hope for a better sense of the situation by the middle of May.
“It’s too soon to tell exactly whether we’re going to have a full season or a partial season with severe limits on the number of people, but we’re preparing for all those contingencies,” said John Tabor, chairman of the festival’s board of directors.
Officials with the New Hampshire Golf Association announced Tuesday the cancellation of the 2020 New Hampshire Open Championship, scheduled to be held at Breakfast Hill Golf Club in Greenland in June.
The New Hampshire Open has been played every year since 1945, NHGA Executive Director Matt Schmidt said in a statement. “However, due to the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and with the large number of out-of-state players that participate in the Open, we felt discretion was needed and that ultimately led us to make the difficult decision to cancel the 87th edition...”
This is the first tournament on the NHGA schedule to be officially canceled. All NHGA events through the end of May have been postponed to later dates.
The New Hampshire Open will be held at Manchester Country Club in 2021 and head back to Breakfast Hill Golf Club in 2022.