GENEVA — The Grape Jamboree has been canceled for the second consecutive year due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic protocols for festivals and the economics of putting the festival on at this time, according to Grape Jamboree Committee President Brian Kelly.
The event is run by a committee of about 40 members and after months of research the group determined it was not safe or economically feasible to have the two-day event, according to Kelly.
“Our board and committee members have been continuously monitoring the COVID- 19 pandemic. We have gathered information from all available resources. ... The Grape Jamboree Committee starts planning for the next year’s event the day the previous one is over,” states a letter posted on the festival’s website.
Kelly said after evaluating all the information, including state and local distancing protocols, and economic challenges, the committee voted and decided to cancel the festival for this year.
The concern of city and county officials regarding the safety of the event were a big part of the decision making process, Kelly said. He said there was concern that the event might get shut down due to COVID-19 after significant money was spent.
The safety concerns were especially intense the last several weeks as Ashtabula County continued to have large numbers of COVID-19 cases.
A Zoom meeting was held to make a final vote and only a few members were in favor, a committee member said.
The festival is run completely by volunteers who put hundreds of hours into the event annually and this was not the outcome the committee was looking for, Kelly said..
The economic challenges included the need to pay approximately $10,000 in non-refundable deposits for entertainment, the insurance liability being waived for anything pandemic related and the lack of concession trucks, many of whom are sitting the year out or are staying in Florida, Kelly and other committee members said.
“When I say we agonized over it. I mean we agonized...This hurts us just as much as every attendee. Our committee becomes like family...Trust me this is not the decision we wanted to make,” Kelly said.
Kelly said a five-page list of state festival protocols were provided. “They are different than county fairs,” he said.
“If you socially distanced in our parade it would go from Cleveland to Conneaut,” Kelly said. “We are not a small festival.”
He said the organization is still financially supporting the community with $2,000 in scholarships to Geneva High School students and an ongoing investment in the 2019 Miss Grapette royalty that is presently serving through 2021 because most of the 2020 activities were canceled due to the pandemic.