It seems like only days ago that we were sending out cheerful, optimistic email about the upcoming Festival. It really was just over a week ago that someone first said to me, “Have you thought about NEFFA and the coronavirus?” Sometimes things change with alarming speed, and we are reduced to hoping that our heads would stop spinning.
With great sadness, I must report that the NEFFA Board has decided to cancel the 2020 NEFFA Festival. This has been a difficult decision, but please know that we considered many factors.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus is very serious. The news of the potential trajectory of the disease is discouraging, and the situation presents concerns that seem likely only to worsen in the next weeks and months. We have every reason to believe recommendations or requirement for restricting public gatherings will only increase between now and the end of April. A speedy resolution seems extremely unlikely, and we did not want to delay our decision, in order to allow performers, organizers, and attendees ample time to rearrange their travel schedules and commitments.
In our deliberations, we considered information we received from the Town of Acton and officials at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School. We considered feedback from our own organizers and key volunteers, particularly those who are not in good health, are immunocompromised in some way, or have close contact with those who are at high risk. We considered perspectives put forward by other event organizers, particularly of social dance events, around the nation and locally. We have watched as events are canceled, as attendance drops at events that are held, and as institutions and government organizations increasingly limit gatherings of any substantial size.
Many of the features that make our Festival the wonderful, community-building event that it is make it especially problematic for this kind of public health crisis. We gather people from all over the country (some from overseas), crowd young and old into enclosed spaces, and encourage people to hold hands and dance face-to-face, in close proximity. No amount of handwashing can overcome the potential for disease transmission in this environment. All the recommendations for reducing the impact in the spread of a new disease include “social distancing,” and we feel it is the responsible decision to respect those guidelines.
We are heartbroken at having to cancel this Festival. For so many of us, NEFFA marks the coming of Spring, and the year will not feel right without it. But in the end, this is also recreational activity, and public health and safety are critically important. We can and will find other ways to celebrate our community, and we will set our sights on next year. We appreciate your understanding and support, and we are optimistic that we will weather these troubled times together.
– Janet Yeracaris, NEFFA President