Most—not all—summertime Central Coast entertainment staples postponed, canceled

Apr 24, 2020

A popular, summertime Central Coast festival announced Thursday it is postponing until 2021. The management of another major SLO County event is taking a more wait-and-see approach on whether to go ahead as usual. Stay-at-home orders have laid waste to all planned concerts, festivals and events this spring, and now summertime ones are falling like dominoes—all triggered by the pandemic.

“The prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best...when you suggest June, July, August, it is unlikely,” said California governor Gavin Newsom on April 14, when asked about the prospect for summer events. “Large scale events that bring in hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of strangers all together, across every conceivable difference—health and otherwise—is not in the cards, based upon our current guidelines and current expectations.”

That’s the scenario until a vaccine is available, say health experts, only until therapeutics, community testing, serology—or antibody—testing and other factors are available on a large scale will public social life as we knew it return.

That’s bad news for many of the staples of summertime on the Central Coast.

Festival Mozaic announced Thursday it is postponing its 50th anniversary season until next year. Festival executive director Lloyd Tanner says the organization could not “in good faith continue to plan for the festival’s summer concerts and events.” And that the health and safety of not only the audience, but all the musicians, staff, volunteers, vendors and hosts are “of the utmost importance”.

That’s also the number one reason cited why the Live Oak Music Festival isn’t happening this summer.

The three-day camping and music festival is put on by KCBX each year, usually over Father’s Day weekend, and is the public radio station’s main fundraising event. KCBX general manager Frank Lanzone said he announced the decision on April 2 to postpone the 2020 Live Oak, after more than five days of “tumultuous” deliberations.

“In retrospect, it's not a decision I'm regretting, other than as a person who's been involved for all 31 years...having to say no to your child after 31 years is an emotionally tough thing to do because there's so many relatives that are part of the Live Oak family that this affects,” Lanzone said.

Second to the new public health concerns of hosting a festival in uncertain times were looming economic losses.

“The next big issue was how long can we go forward without inflicting severe financial hardship, where if we committed to keep going, we would have incurred lots and lots of costs that we'd have to pay out at that point,” Lanzone said.

But some other major summertime events have not been canceled or postponed. The California Mid-State Fair is still moving forward.

“We're hopeful. We're cautiously hopeful, we're putting on a plan to have the fair….we're also putting on a plan for what would happen if we can't have the fair. So we're just waiting for information,” said Colleen Bojorquez, interim CEO of the Paso Robles fair. “We currently haven't canceled our fair. We are planning for all possibilities, but we're moving forward because we haven't gotten an exact directive from the governor that we are not able to do this.”

The fair is scheduled for July 22 to August 2nd. Bojorquez says the fair staff do have a deadline to make a decision, but it’s not here yet.

“There is a certain drop dead date, I'll call it, where we aren't going to be able to do what we need to do to put on the fair,” Bojorquez said. “There are certain things that we have to get in place. And if we can't leave our homes, we obviously aren't going to be able to get those things done.”

The musicians scheduled to play the Mid-State Fair understand things are up in the air, said Bojorquez, and “as far as deposits, we don't have currently have any deposits out. We have collected some deposits from vendors and we have contracts in place, but all of those—in these unprecedented times—an epidemic, a pandemic, cancels those.”

And if state officials do end up allowing large gatherings, some areas of the fairgrounds could accommodate physical distancing, some not.

The fair is a state agency, one of 76 fair entities under the California Department of Food and Agriculture; and while many of those receive state funding, Bojorquez said the Mid-State Fair has been self-supporting for several years. Tickets are available for purchase, but there’s none of the usual promotion or advertising going on for this summer’s fair.

For many of the festivals, concerts, shows and events that won’t be happening this summer, organizers are using the word ‘postpone’ rather than ‘cancel.’ Festival Mozaic is planning to replicate its 2020 schedule in July 2021. According to the organization, current ticket holders will have their tickets automatically moved to 2021. Or, ticket holders can donate the value of their tickets to the Festival as a tax-deductible contribution, or ask for a refund. Live Oak Music Festival management is following the same policy.

Still, whether it’s technically a cancellation or postponement, Central Coast residents will be experiencing a very different summer than ever before. It’s anyone’s guess when—or if—big public gatherings will return to an arena, festival grounds or concert hall near you.