For more than 100 years, Gothenburg’s Harvest Festival has been a large community celebration that brings current and former residents and friends together for a weekend in September. Like seemingly everything else in 2020, this year is different. Following a majority vote on Friday by the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce board of directors, Harvest Festival has been canceled for 2020.
“Every year, the Chamber looks forward to providing fun activities for the community during Harvest Festival,” said Deb Egenberger, the Chamber’s executive director. “Last year was one of our best, and we were so excited about the things we had planned in 2020. But given the heightened concerns about COVID-19, the Chamber’s special events committee and, ultimately, the Chamber board of directors made the very difficult decision to cancel the celebration this year.”
Egenberger consulted with professionals at Gothenburg Health and Two Rivers Public Health Department during the planning process for Harvest Festival, which was set for Sept. 17-20. Current directed health measures prohibit a traditional parade as well as a beer garden. In addition, the challenges associated with managing how people enter and exit Ehmen Park, controlling the number of visitors in the park at one time, policing the space between people and enforcing mask wearing seemed insurmountable.
“The special events committee really wanted to make Harvest Festival happen for their friends and neighbors in Gothenburg,” Egenberger said. “We wanted to be the town that could pull this off, even in a pandemic, and we worked hard to come up with added safety measures and alternate ways to present activities.”
Ultimately, concern for residents’ health led the committee to recommend canceling the event this year.
“It’s disappointing, to say the least,” Egenberger said. “But on the flip side of that, if just one person’s life was put in jeopardy because we went forward with the festival, I couldn’t live with that and neither could any of our committee members.”
The Pony Express Rodeo is still planned for Friday and Saturday, Sept. 18 and 19.