James Rada Jr.
Thurmont’s largest event and one of the largest craft festivals in Maryland has fallen victim to COVID-19. Colorfest has been canceled for the first time in its 57-year history.
“We’ve had very cold weather, very hot weather, drenching rain… we even had it a month after 9/11. I was really worried that year that having so many people might make us a target, but we made it through all that,” said Catoctin Colorfest President Carol Robertson.
The Thurmont Commissioners met with members of Catoctin Colorfest, Inc. and different community groups that benefit from the 100,000 visitors Colorfest brings to Thurmont during the second week of October each year. For many community organizations, the annual Catoctin Colorfest event is their primary fundraiser for the year.
The town provides bus service, sanitation, and additional security for the event, which is paid for out of permit fees vendors pay. Town officials needed to know if the event would continue, so completion of the competitive bidding process could be done in time for the event.
“We find ourselves in the midst of a public health emergency, and while we hope that the virus does not have a significant resurgence in the fall, the incidence of infection is predicted to increase. The only smart thing to do at this time is to rely on the science and make a decision now that will permit people to plan while also protecting the public,” the Thurmont Mayor and Commissioners said in a released statement.
They feared that such a large gathering, where social distancing could not be maintained, would create a surge in people contracting the virus.
“We have an obligation to protect not just the residents of Thurmont but all those who visit Thurmont. Given the severity of the pandemic, we have determined that it is unsafe to proceed with the festival as a matter of public health and safety. While we are disappointed that it cannot be held this year, we look forward to the Colorfest Festival in 2021,” the mayor and commissioners said.
Robertson told the commissioners that she had been thinking about what to do for months, but too many things needed to come together for the event to work. In the end, it came down to her and the other members of the Catoctin Colorfest Board not wanting to harm the community they love.
“I have given a lot of thought to this whole thing, but I am more concerned about my family, friends, and this community than I am for having 100,000 people come here,” she told the commissioners.
Thurmont Police Chief Greg Eyler agreed, telling the commissioners, “It is going to be a big risk if we do have it, and I think we should cancel it. There is no way to do social distancing, there is no way to enforce coverings, no way to really enforce anything. We have trouble now enforcing that with what we have in Town, and I know other law enforcement agencies have the same thing.”
Therefore, the decision was made to cancel the event for 2020, and plan on making the 2021 event on October 9-10 even better.
Large crowds of visitors are shown at the 2019 Catoctin Colorfest, Thurmont’s largest much-anticipated yearly event.