Annual fall festival canceled due to COVID-19, spring event planned
One of Highlands’ biggest events will not take place in 2020.
Organizers of the Highlands Food and Wine Festival informed the town board of commissioners on Thursday night that the event scheduled for Nov. 12-14 has been cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“North Carolina continues to be in phase two of the state’s reopening plan, and to be honest we haven’t seen any positive trend in the COVID-19 case numbers that would make us feel confident the fall event can happen,” organizer David Bock with Highlands Festivals Inc. said. “We hate to cancel the festival, but it feels like the right thing to do in terms of public safety with all that is going on.”
Festival director Casey Reid, with Eleven Events, noted that organizers held out hope for the annual Highlands Food and Wine Festival as long as possible, but were forced to change directions.
The group will go forward with planning a spring music festival in Highlands, tentatively named the “Bear Shadow Festival.” That event is scheduled for April 23-25 at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park.
“While this was a difficult decision, it is in the best interest of the community to cancel the fall event,” Reid said. “The health and safety of our ticket holders, staff, vendors, and the residents of Highlands continue to be our top priorities. We were looking forward to celebrating the Food and Wine Festival’s fifth anniversary with some special nods to those who have helped make it one of the most anticipated events in Western North Carolina. Now, we are just as excited to turn our focus to the spring event as an opportunity to bring the community together again for a one-of-a-kind celebration of the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Highlands Festivals Inc. planned a spring music festival for 2020, but that event was also cancelled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bock noted that guests who purchased tickets for the fall Food and Wine Festival will have the option to transfer those tickets to the spring Bear Shadow Festival. Ticketholders for the fall event may also request a full refund, or relinquish their tickets and donate the money from their refund to Highlands Festivals Inc. in order to continue the nonprofit’s mission of bringing top-tier entertainment to Highlands.
Ticket holders can begin submitting their preferences beginning Sep. 16. All requests must be made by email to email@example.com by Sept. 30. If ticket holders do not request one of the above options by Sept. 30, tickets will automatically roll over to the Bear Shadow Music Festival.
The spring event will be capped at 1,000 tickets sold, the same amount of patrons as was proposed for the cancelled 2020 event.
“While the park can handle a lot more than 1,000 people, we felt like capping it at 1,000 this year was best so we can see how that number works before trying to grow the spring event in subsequent years,” Bock said. “A spring music festival with 1,000 people is new for Highlands and we want to make sure we have all our ducks in a row in terms of crowd control, traffic control, etc.”
Many of the same musicians that were scheduled to perform at the Highlands Food and Wine Festival this fall are now scheduled for the spring event, including Mandolin Orange, Jamestown Revival, Love Canon, St. Paul and The Broken Bones and The War And Treaty.
The board of commissioners approved the use of the park for the Bear Shadow Festival unanimously.
For more information about Highlands Food and Wine Festival, visit www.highlandsfoodandwine.com.