The Stratford Kiwanis Garlic Festival, a major fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club of Stratford and an annual boon for area garlic farmers, has been cancelled.
The 14-year-old festival is the latest in a growing list of summer and fall events being shelved due the pandemic, which is making the planning of large-scale gatherings, even those scheduled for later in the year, nearly impossible.
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“We agonized probably since the news started coming out in mid-March about things starting to look pretty grim, and things shutting down,” said Bonnie Richardson, chair of the festival’s organizing committee. “We felt the picture should be fairly clear by (the end of May), but we also … needed at least three months to do the legwork to get an event of that size mounted.”
Between 65 and 75 vendors, including many local and regional garlic farmers, cheese-makers, alcohol producers and artisans, take part in the festival, which attracts around 600 to 700 visitors to the Stratford Rotary Complex at any given time during its two-day run.
Without knowing exactly what public-health guidelines will look like in September, Richardson said estimating standards for physical distancing, which could change at any time, was too risky.
“That kind of restriction could come along and pop up practically just before we’re headed in the door, so, we just felt it was too unpredictable, the risk was too high, the liability was too high,” she said. “At this point, we’re hoping to come back in 2021 and we’ll take a good look at the lay of the land, as it were, in January.”
Over the past 14 years, the Garlic Festival has raised about $110,000 for the local Kiwanis Club, which, in turn, funds community projects such as the new playground at Romeo public school, the Kiwanis Festival of the Performing Arts, the Concerts in the Park series, and programs for new moms offered by the Stratford House of Blessing and the Local Community Food Centre.
This year’s Concerts in the Park series also has been cancelled due to the pandemic.
Kiwanis Club treasurer Gerald Cook said the loss of fundraisers will impact some of the club’s community service projects over the next year but, at this point, he doesn’t believe they are in jeopardy of disappearing.
“Some of the programs we’ve been historically doing may end up being on hold for a year until we can get back into this fundraising mode again,” Cook said.