LETCHWORTH STATE PARK — The annual Letchworth Arts & Crafts Show & Sale has been canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The event that annually attracts tens of thousands of people to the park had been set for Oct. 10 to 12 at the Highbanks Recreation Area.
The decision by the Arts Council for Wyoming County’s Board of Directors was unanimous.
“ACWC’s priority is the health and safety of the artisans, volunteers, support staff and the community”. said Executive Director Jacqueline Swaby of the ACWC. “This was a heartbreaking and difficult decision for our organization to make, as it will have significant economic impact on our artisans and all other entities who have contributed to the 44-year success of this event.
“But as COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, and after numerous consultations, meetings, and a survey of the artisans, it became clear that in the face of an unprecedented situation, we needed to make this tough choice,” she continued.
The announcement will have a huge impact on the ACWC operations, since from this show alone, the organization is looking at a deficit of at least $70,000.
“That’s just one impact. There are other ripple effects because of COVID that will affect our deficit as well,” she said. “Usually we net $70,000 (from the Letchworth Arts and Crafts Show and Sale), which is a significant part of our annual operating budget.”
The news marks the first time the event has been canceled in 45 years.
Discussions over cancellation have been going on since March. They have been monitoring the situation, and in addition to that — as well as keeping on top of CDC guidelines and the governor’s mandates — the ACWC noted several large events as benchmarks to help make their decision including: the New York State Fair, the Rochester International Jazz Festival and Wyoming County Fair.
“When the Jazz Festival moved their event to the same week leading up to our show, because it was moved from June to October, we thought there was probably some more hope for us to still be able to present the festival in October,” Swaby said. They surveyed their artisans — 323 of them — and got close to 90 percent response to find out if they had to cancel if they could do a virtual show.
The overwhelming response was no.
As one of the top 100 classic art festivals in the USA, this event has attracted a large audience as it is considered to be a prime family friendly destination. The festival usually draws anywhere between 75,000 to 85,000 visitors, but Swaby said she’s seen as many as 95,000 people come.
Attendees are exposed to the creativity of some of the country’s finest visual artists, crafts people, artisans, and as well as a vast array of traditional and unique foods over the three-day event.
The event typically includes about 300 top-notch vendors from across the United States.
“We realize the magnitude of this decision and its impact on the public, the artisans, other vendors, Letchworth State Park, as well as the ACWC”, said Gary Buchholz, President of the ACWC. “It would not be possible to follow or enforce social distancing guidelines. Neither the State Park nor the ACWC has the capacity to fulfill all the mandates.”
Scott Gardner, president of Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce, said the sales tax impact would be felt more in Livingston County, as that is where in the park the show was held, but the overnight industry in the area would feel it the most, since when the festival is happening, it’s hard to find a place to stay within 30 miles of the park. He said restaurants and shops in the area people might have stopped by on their way would feel it too.
“There won’t be an AppleUmpkin this year either,” he said. “So that’s an impact which will be felt to the county.”
The ACWC will provide an opportunity through its website for the public to shop with artisans who already have an online presence. The link to the artisans will be available starting on the weekend that event would have been held, and will continue to be accessible through the end of 2020.
Swaby is making a public plea to everyone who can, to “please support our artisans during this difficult time,” according to the ACWC.
“We invite you to make plans now with friends and family members to have a special LACS online shopping party by visiting our website www.artswyco.org during that weekend,” she said. “It will be the door to many of the artisans’ website. You will find that special and unique product that will never be found on a retail store shelf.”