James Rada, Jr.
With its draw of 100,000 visitors annually and the generosity of the Catoctin Colorfest organization, Colorfest has greatly benefitted the Thurmont community. Its cancellation for 2020 will undoubtedly impact those organizations moving forward.
“This has been a difficult decision,” Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird said in the town press release announcing the event’s cancellation. “The commissioners and I fully realize that all of the local non-profit organizations rely on Colorfest as their largest fundraising event each year. However, with this current public health emergency and the unknown impacts that lie ahead, we feel that public health and safety must be our highest priority.”
One way the organizations fundraise is to run a booth during Colorfest. Other organizations earn money through an associated service like offering parking or package check. Then, after the event is over, Catoctin Colorfest not only makes donations to organizations, but it supports community events and scholarships.
Chris Kinnaird with the Guardian Hose Company said, “Yes, we like to make money. We are in a financial crisis like everybody else is, but I think there are a lot of unknowns, and there are too many unknowns for us to decide today or know what is going to happen two, three, four, or five months from now.”
He told the commissioners that the company would have to raise prices on the food they sell at the festival because food prices had risen. The department also didn’t know whether the health department would place additional requirements on food vendors. There was also the question if the event happened, whether attendance would be way down, leaving them with unsold food that would reduce their earnings from the event.
Lowman Keeney with the Thurmont Ambulance Company echoed Kinnaird’s concerns. He expected attendance to drop with social distancing and other restrictions if the event continued.
“We do understand that this is our biggest fundraiser we have, but we too have to look out for the safety and well-being of everyone,” Keeney said.
The Thurmont American Legion earns money during Colorfest by renting 146 vendor spaces on Legion property. Gary Spiegel said the consensus among the post leadership was that if the event was canceled, the vendor fees would either be applied to the 2021 event or refunded.
However, he said that although the town needed to make a decision early enough to receive bids for the buses, sanitation, and police protection it provides for the event, “We are five months out, and I don’t think we need to say yes or no right now.”
Connie Masser with Deerfield United Methodist Church, which earns money from offering parking during Colorfest, told the commissioners during their meeting about Colorfest that there were people on either side of the issue. Some were scared about spreading the disease and others wondered how the lost income would be made up since just about every event has been canceled. She said the church would support whatever decision was made.
Catoctin Colorfest President Carol Robertson said that although some Catoctin High seniors had submitted scholarship applications, none will be awarded this year because of the lack of funds. However, Catoctin Colorfest will still purchase an FFA pig from their annual sale. This is usually done at the annual Thurmont & Emmitsburg Community Show, but that event was also canceled. The pig is then resold with the proceeds being donated to the Thurmont Food Bank.
Some of the organizations that receive direct donations or support from Catoctin Colorfest will see a reduction this year, if Catoctin Colorfest, Inc. is even able to make a donation. These contributions were approaching $20,000 a year. The organizations include: Guardian Hose Company, Thurmont Ambulance Company, Thurmont Police Department, Catoctin High FFA, Catoctin High scholarships, Town of Thurmont for various events and projects, Thurmont Food Bank, Thurmont Regional Library, and Thurmont Main Street.
Catoctin Colorfest 2021 will be held on October 9-10, 2021.