Delta variant causes cancelation of major NJ summer event
AUGUSTA — The creator and organizer of the Crawfish Fest in Sussex County has canceled this year’s event because of the increase in cases caused by the Delta variant.
Michael Arnone wrote on the festival's Facebook page that he was confident two weeks ago that this year's event would be the biggest ever. Then the upward trend in COVID-19 cases because of the Delta variant began along with updated CDC guidelines forcing Arnone to make a decision he said he did not arrive at lightly.
"This is my livelihood. My number one rule has always been 'no one gets hurt,' Arnone wrote. "I just don't see any other way."
According to the festival website, 99.75% of the comments to the Facebook post are in agreement.
Arnone wrote of his concern about unvaccinated people and musicians from around the country coming to the festival from states like Louisiana not adhering to masking and social distance recommendations.
The CDC recommends everyone regardless of vaccination status wear masks indoors in public places but no mandate is in place.
"The CDC advises distancing outside. I just don’t see that happening with our three-day festival with people being so close. A paint line is not going to protect people. On a hot day in August, sweaty masks most likely will be coming off. It will be near impossible to keep people masked and at a safe distance," Arnone wrote.
The festival's dance hall is indoors and its pavilion stage is covered, semi-indoors.
According to the festival's website, tickets for the 2021 festival will be good for the 2022 festival June 3-5, 2022.
What about other events?
When most capacity limits were lifted in New Jersey at the end of May, planning went full speed ahead for many events that had been canceled by the pandemic. One of those events, the Festival of Ballooning, was held without a problem.
Amusement areas like Jenkinson's in Point Pleasant Beach, the Steel Pier in Atlantic City and Six Flags Great Adventure operated at full capacity this summer. Great Adventure announced plans for its annual Fright Fest.
The Point Pleasant Beach Chamber of Commerce said its 43rd annual Festival of the Sea is still happening as scheduled Sept. 18. The sold-out Sea.Hear.Now. concert in Asbury Park featuring Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins is also still scheduled for Sept. 18 and 19.
Seaside Heights is not making any changes to its daily line up of live shows, movies, fireworks, tribute bands, beach concerts and kite flying.
"We're concerned like everyone else is but at this point we're not hitting the panic button. We're going to watch it, monitor it. Everything seems to be alright, " Seaside Heights Mayor Tony Vaz told New Jersey 101.5. "Everything is a go as we speak."
Vaz said mask wearing and vaccinations are encouraged
The two biggest events scheduled for the fall, the Wine on the Beach Festival Sept. 11 and 12 and the three day Ocean County Columbus Day Parade are still a scheduled, according to the mayor. Both were canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ