WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Organizers for the North Carolina Azalea Festival have cancelled this year’s festival in light of the coronavirus.
The North Carolina Azalea Festival broke the news Thursday night, 19 days until the event was expected to kick off.
“We have come to the day many of us have been dreading; out of an abundance of caution, we must cancel our beloved North Carolina Azalea Festival 2020. This statement comes to you with heavy hearts – the Azalea Festival has been a staple in our community for 73 years, showcasing our beautiful city, highlighting our amazing citizens, and sharing our Southern hospitality and community pride, and we hate to lose even one year of that,” the letter says.
Dr. Stephen Meinhold, the president of the 2020 North Carolina Azalea Festival, went into deeper detail Friday morning about the decision to cancel activities for the first time in the event’s 73-year history.
“I’d say for about ten or eleven days we’ve acknowledged we needed to be prepared and take the appropriate steps,” Meinhold said when asked about how long the festival board has talked about the possible impact of the coronavirus.
The festival leadership sent out an email Thursday night announcing the cancellation. It came hours after the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, and the governor’s office, recommended cancelation or postponement of large gatherings of more than 100 people, including those where people are in close contact.
“Our events are large, which is a good thing,” Meinhold said. “It’s really impractical at the azalea festival events to try to create some social distancing among the guests. So, we as a board of directors and a staff felt like the health and well-being of everyone who lives here is the primary concern. We’ll find a way to celebrate our community and celebrate spring, even if it happens in the fall.”
Meinhold said the festival’s board is working to reschedule some of the events for later in the year. He added they hope to release information soon with details for sponsors and ticket holders.
“We’ve been in contact for the past several days with our promoter, and we’re working to see if we can find some alternate dates for the concerts, as well as another couple festival events,” he said. “We don’t want to delay any kind of announcements where we can help people get their financial commitment back wherever that’s needed or possible. But we first want to let everyone know if there are some events that we’re able to reschedule.”