Days after announcing their plans to open for the 2020 season, the owners of the Sterling Renaissance Festival have decided against it due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The outdoor attraction's 44th season, which would have begun July 11, has been canceled, owner Doug Waterbury told The Citizen Wednesday.
Waterbury, who owns the festival with his wife, Carol, said they made the decision upon further examination of the feasibility of opening for the season. Though he feels they had a handle on the logistics, such as making hand sanitizer available and regularly cleaning surfaces, staffing would have been a bigger problem than he anticipated. Waterbury said it was uncertain whether enough employees would have been willing to work given the extra $600 a week in unemployment insurance that they're receiving.
The safety risks were another concern, as expressed in comments on the festival's Facebook post Monday announcing its reopening plans. Deanna Ryan, a senior public health educator for the Cayuga County Health Department, said the department received complaints about the festival reopening as well.
It's also uncertain whether the festival would have been allowed by the state to open. Though arts and entertainment venues could open as soon as June 26 along with other phase four businesses, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said that "attractive nuisances" like the New York State Fair could be held to a higher standard. Those events, which draw people from outside other regions of New York and even outside the state, might not be able to proceed until the whole state has fully reopened, Cuomo said.
Most summer events in Cayuga County have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Sterling Renaissance Festival may not be one of them.
Regardless, the festival will return in 2021, Waterbury said. Though refunds will be available, he hopes people with tickets for this season will consider holding on to them for next season. Artisans who paid to be part of this season will be given credit for next season, too.
Waterbury added that work will continue this summer on the festival's 35 acres of grounds in Fair Haven. An eighth pub, with a spacious deck, is being built by the jousting area. He said it will be one of the best people-watching spots at the festival, which regularly draws more than 100,000 people to northern Cayuga County every summer.