On April 22, the Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival Organization announced that the 30th annual Finger Lakes GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance, originally scheduled for July 16 through 19, 2020 is canceled. The festival will run from July 22 to 25, 2021.
According to a recent press release, GrassRoots has been in communication with the local Health Department regarding the current public health crisis.
“We have carefully weighed the situation with the ongoing pandemic,” according to the release. “As an organization, we have determined that it would be irresponsible for us to continue in light of the current circumstances and with so many unknowns. The priority remains the health and safety of the Trumansburg and surrounding community, attendees, performers, volunteers and staff.”
Public Health Director Frank Kruppa agreed with the decision.
“The Health Department supports the proactive decision by the GrassRoots organization to promote social distancing and protect public health by postponing the summer 2020 festival,” Kruppa said in the release. “This decision is consistent with our current guidance and that of the state to cancel large gatherings that have the potential to increase the spread of COVID-19. While it is unknown what the next few months will bring, we know the long-term planning involved with GrassRoots each year and we recognize the sacrifice and disappointment to many in our community who look forward to this annual event.”
Trumansburg Mayor Rordan Hart said GrassRoots has played an important role in the village since its inception.
“There are certainly some people who don’t enjoy the crowds in the area that weekend, but overall, it’s become something that people set their calendars by and it certainly brings in a lot of money into the local economy and contributes a lot of money to local sales taxes,” Hart said. “From an economic standpoint, it’s been a good thing for the area. Culturally, it’s become something that people identify it as part of what Trumansburg is now.”
Typical attendance for the event ranges anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 people, Hart estimated, spending several millions of dollars between ticket sales and concessions. That money helps fund the organizations involved, even though Main Street businesses don’t see much of a benefit, said Don Scott, owner of Ron Don’s on Old Main Street.
“It really didn’t do anything for us on this end of town,” he said. “We never had to put on extra staff. It was never anything crazy because GrassRoots, it’s a pretty self-contained camping party experience down there.”
Still, Scott recognizes that the funds from the festival help a lot of residents.
“I don’t have anything negative to say about GrassRoots,” he said. “It didn’t do a lot for us down on this end, but it did a lot of good things. The eighth-grade Washington trip got financed every year by parking.”
Hart said that the decision to cancel this year’s celebration was a smart one, but the overall effects are hard to discern.
“Their cancellation for this year is certainly justified,” Hart said. “But what we will see from a concern standpoint is, what does that do to the local businesses that do benefit? Shur-Save is not in the village, but they certainly do a lot of things for the village and for the community, so will they see a meaningful downtick in business? And those are the kinds of things that actually have been argued over the years – how much do these businesses pick up in additional business [during the festival]?”
Scott, like others in Trumansburg, is uncertain about the future and the far-reaching effects of the festival’s cancellation.
“The biggest people I feel bad for is the eighth-grade class losing all their financing for their trip that they’ve had for the last 25 years,” he said. “The organizations that make money, it’s just too bad that they’re going to be the ones to suffer.”
Hart said that he and others will be glad to celebrate when it is safe to gather again.
“As the governor begins to move us towards un-PAUSE-ing, we can have a lot of things on pause before mass gatherings are allowed again,” Hart said. “So, my personal guess is probably that we’ll start to see gatherings of smaller sizes allowed over time. Maybe the summer wedding can still happen if there’s a smaller crowd, but to go from those kinds of gatherings to many thousands of people, that’s going to take time. So, my hope is that, certainly by next year, we’ll have a handle on those concerns so that the festival can return and celebrate their 30th anniversary a year late.”
Donations to help ensure the continuation of the nonprofit festival can be made on the organization’s website: GrassRootsFest.org/donate. Ticket buyers will be receiving an email from the festival regarding ticket details. Camping passes and admission tickets will be automatically transferred to the rescheduled 30th anniversary event.
Admission tickets can be transferred to any future GrassRoots Festival. You will be able to access a form for transfer beyond the 2021 event. Additional information on ticket transfers and other important ticketing information can be found at GrassRootsFest.org. Festival and ticketing questions can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org
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