ASHTABULA — The Wine and Walleye Festival, the annual two-day festival featuring Ashtabula County's biggest attractions, will not take place this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The festival committee, in conjunction with the Lift Bridge Community Association, decided to cancel the popular festival after closely following the pandemic, City Manager Jim Timonere said. The festival was scheduled for July 26, 27 and 28 on Bridge Street in the Ashtabula Harbor.
"It is with great disappointment we feel it is the responsible decision to cancel the Wine and Walleye Festival for 2020," Timonere said. "The health and wellness of all our volunteers, merchants, vendors and visitors is of utmost importance to us .We do not believe we can host an event of our size within the current guidelines for social distancing and ensure everyone’s safety."
Organizers tried to come up with creative options to host the event but with the practice of social distancing, they decided they couldn't put on the caliber of the festival they strive to showcase, Timonere said.
"We rely on sponsorship to make this a first-class event and we feel now is not the time to ask for funds which we know many do not have," Timonere said.
"We truly appreciate the support our community, visitors, vendors and area merchants have given to the Lift Bridge Community Association and the Wine and Walleye Festival Committee."
City Council President John Roskovics said it is sad to see the festival canceled.
"It’s a great event, one of the top regional festivals," he said. "It’s a fantastic showcase for our city highlighting our many attractions, our beautiful town and our great people."
The committee and city officials are shifting gears and planning for 2021, taking into account the lessons they have learned from the pandemic, Timonere said.
"While some things may never return to the normal we are accustomed to, we will do our best to provide a safe and enjoyable festival next year," he said.
"Again, we truly appreciate your support and encourage you to continue to patronize our area businesses and restaurants as they slowly open back up in a safe and respectful manner."
Roskovics said he's sure it will come back stronger and bigger.