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Festival of the Arts canceled for the first time in 5 decades

The 50-year tradition in downtown Grand Rapids has never been canceled before.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A yearly three-day event in downtown Grand Rapids has been canceled as a result of the coronavirus. 

Festival of the Arts has taken place every year for five decades. But, fesitval leadership said in a press release Tuesday that growing concerns over COVID-19 led to the difficult decision to cancel the June event.

“Cancelling Festival for the first time in 50 years was a very difficult decision, but we need to keep the community’s best interests in mind,” said David Abbott, executive director for Festival of the Arts. 

More than a thousand volunteers work to orchestrate the celebration of art, music and performances throughout the downtown area. The fest draws crowds in excess of 300,000, according to a press release. This year's festival was set to take place June 5-7. 

About 1,500 people volunteer for the event, and it is estimated that 300,000 people attend Festival of the Arts. 

"All of our volunteer committees would normally be hard at work over the next few weeks planning this year’s event,” Abbott said. “With guidelines in place limiting gatherings, Festival’s Board of Directors and I felt it prudent to advise a halt of committee activity for the health and well being of all of our volunteers.”

The CDC has recommended postponing or canceling events with gatherings of more than 50 people for eight weeks. Another major West Michigan festival, Tulip Time, was also canceled. It was scheduled to start at the beginning of May.

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