Manhattan Potato Festival Canceled
The 2020 Manhattan Potato Festival in Montana, USA – the main fund-raiser for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce – is the latest in a series of cancelled events related to the COVID-19 virus.
“Our decisions weren’t led by fear of coronavirus, but more by the reality of how we could accomplish it,” said Paul Jones, chamber president. “If people want to complain, they need to complain to the governor’s office, not to us.”
The chamber board recently voted unanimously to cancel the August 15 event because it is still unknown whether Governor Steve Bullock will have by then authorized Phase 3 reopening, which would allow more than 50 people to gather in public. Phase 2, which allows gatherings of up to 50 people, is in effect as of recently.
Jones said the decision was put off as long as possible in hopes the health department would have more definitive information about late-summer regulations. But now is when the chamber would begin incurring significant expenses to prepare for the festival, and “making that financial investment (without certainty) could have put us in dire straits,” he explained.
A statement on the chamber’s Facebook site added that the COVID-19 shutdown’s effects on local businesses added to concerns about the festival’s fiscal viability.
“Planning and moving forward with the Potato Festival includes vendor participation and sponsorship support, both of which are severely reduced at this point in the planning process because of our struggling economy,” the statement reads. “The Potato Festival takes months to plan, and typically, the level of committed participation is much higher at this point in the planning stage. Many vendors have decided not to participate; others are waiting until the last minute to decide. Due to the uncertainty of many logistical facets of the festival, the board decided it was in the best interest of the festival to make the hard decision to cancel this year.”
Jones said the board hoped that by delaying the decision, the festival could be held as a celebratory event to kick off the end of summer and start of the school year. Instead, the board will turn its attention to celebrations later in the year. Despite the financial hit resulting from canceling the festival, Jones said the chamber would operate on a smaller budget sustained by dues and memberships.