More Galveston County fall festivals have joined the growing list of COVID-19 cancellations, raising questions about what organizations will do without their vital fundraising events.
The popular Galveston Island Oktoberfest and La Marque Bayou Fest have been canceled as organizers expect coronavirus social distancing measures to stretch into the fall. Those festivals join the ranks of other staple fall festivals, including Lone Star Rally, that have been pushed to 2021 and put organizers in a financial bind.
Organizers of the Island Oktoberfest tried to wait as long as they could in hopes the pandemic might wind down by the fall, but it became apparent it would be too difficult to plan the event, said the Rev. Richard Rhoades of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Galveston.
The church organizes Oktoberfest and uses the event as a fundraiser.
“We didn’t feel like we could, with the best interest of those who come, guarantee that everything was going to be as safe as possible with the mass numbers that we’ve had in the past,” Rhoades said.
The city of Galveston during the pandemic has suspended issuing special events permits as well, and it’s not clear to the church board whether that would extend to the time for the festival, which was scheduled for Oct. 23-25, Rhoades said.
The church normally raises about $100,000 through the event, festival chairwoman Barbara Sanderson said.
“It’s very crucial,” she said.
The church is trying to find a way to host a virtual silent auction in place of the festival and also is seeking donations to make up for what it would normally have raised this year, Sanderson said.
La Marque’s popular Bayou Fest also has been canceled because of coronavirus-related concerns, city spokeswoman Colleen Martin said.
The annual event features live music, cook-offs, fishing and children’s activities.
“We’re not issuing any mass gathering permits,” Martin said. “Our buildings are still closed to the public. And we’re not promoting any events other than COVID testing and food distribution.”
The city doesn’t see how it could safely run the festival, which was scheduled for October, Martin said.
Singer Charley Pride, who was scheduled to perform at the festival, will return in 2021 for the event, Martin said.
“We’re just going to hold off until next year,” she said.
Both Oktoberfest and Bayou Fest will return in 2021, organizers said.