Syracuse cancels all outdoor festivals through November, and it’s not just the coronavirus

Updated 1:34 PM; Today 12:29 PM

Westcott Street Cultural Fair

The Open Hand Theater marches in the opening parade during the Westcott Street Cultural Fair, Syracuse, NY, Sunday September 17, 2017. Scott Schild | sschild@syracuse.comSYR

By Marnie Eisenstadt | meisenstadt@syracuse.com

Syracuse, N.Y. — The city announced today that it will not be allowing any large-scale events for the summer or fall.

The decision is not just based on concerns about the spread of Covid-19. Even if the state lifts the restrictions on crowd size for outdoor gatherings, the city does not have enough money for the extra police and clean-up the events require.

“The pandemic has placed the city in a tough situation financially. These events and programs are labor intensive for city workers, so we need to consider the reduced size of our staff which helps to coordinate many of these events and the fact that Covid-19 is still present in our communities. Making the decision to suspend permitting for these events is difficult, but it is the right thing to do,” Mayor Ben Walsh said. “We look forward to next year with hope that the many programs that contribute to the fabric of Syracuse can return.”

The city’s decision includes 16 scheduled events, but it does not affect the fate of the New York State Fair. That decision is made by the governor.

The Westcott Street Cultural Fair will take its first year off in 27 years, said Sharon Sherman, the annual art event’s chairperson.

The festival fills the streets of the Westcott neighborhood with vendors; usually there are about 120 artists and nonprofits.

Sherman said the festival was told about the city’s decision Friday. Until that point, the festival was still wrestling with whether it should go on and how to meet state safety guidelines, if it did.

“We don’t know whether we would have had it, or not,” Sherman said.

The Syracuse Irish Festival usually draws 20,000 people to Clinton Square over two days, said Marty Cahill, chairman of the festival.

When the group found out it would not be able to have the event, as it usually does, they decided to try a different way. Instead of having one event in one spot, the Irish festival will take place at several, smaller private venues throughout the city, Cahill said.

“We won’t be able to satisfy the thousands,” Cahill said. “But we still wanted to feature the local musicians.”

He said the Irish Festival plans to have its new, bite-sized event schedule worked out in the coming weeks.

This will be the Irish Festival’s 26th year, Cahill said. He said no one was surprised by the city’s decision, and they’re looking forward to the challenge of celebrating Irish culture on a smaller scale while keeping everyone who comes safe.

“We would consider than an immense success,” Cahill said.

The impacted events include:

Northeast Jazz and Wine Festival – July 24 and 25

Arts & Crafts Festival – July 24, 25 and 26

Latino Festival – Aug. 8

Bacon Festival – Aug. 14 and 15

Valley Nature Run – Aug. 22

Citrus in the City – Aug. 29

Irish Festival – Sept. 11 and 12

Northside Festival – Sept. 13

Italian Festival – Sept. 18, 19, and 20

CFA Cat Show – Sept. 18, 19, and 20

Light the Night Walk – Sept. 24

Strathmore Parks Run – Sept. 20

Westcott Festival – Sept. 27

Inner Harbor 5K – Oct. 4

Eastwood Run – Oct. 18

Syracuse Half Marathon – Nov. 10

Marnie Eisenstadt is a reporter who writes about people and public affairs in Central New York. Have an idea or question? Contact her anytime: email | Twitter | Facebook | 315-470-2246