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Organizers call off 2020 Lompoc Flower Festival amid coronavirus concerns
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Organizers call off 2020 Lompoc Flower Festival amid coronavirus concerns

062819 Lompoc Flower Festival 04.jpg (copy)

Kids ride on carnival attractions during the 67th annual Lompoc Flower Festival in this June 28, 2019, file photo. This year's event was canceled due to concerns surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The Lompoc Valley’s largest and longest-running community celebration has joined the extensive list of events canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lompoc Valley Festival Association announced Wednesday it has called off this summer's Flower Festival, which had been scheduled for June 24 through 28.

The announcement came just six weeks after the organization also canceled this year’s SpringFest celebration, which was slated for mid-April.

This year marks the first time since 1951, the year before the first Flower Festival, that Lompoc will not host either of its premier community gatherings. Neither the SpringFest, which started 34 years ago, nor the Flower Festival had ever been canceled.

“This has been a year of firsts,” said Festival Chairman John Keth, his tone clearly indicating disappointment in the unwanted milestones.

The move to cancel what would have been the 68th annual Flower Festival was made in response to social distancing guidelines and restrictions on gatherings that were put in place by public health officials in an attempt to curtail the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“We had no choice but to take this step for the safety of the community, as well as the participating vendors, carnival and volunteers that make this event such a great success,” read a portion of a statement from the Lompoc Valley Festival Association’s board of directors.

Although the festival will not be held, at least one aspect will forge ahead.

The 2020 Flower Festival queen competition will continue, Keth said. He noted that the queen candidates have already started fundraising, so organizers did not want to end that tradition. He estimated a queen will likely be crowned in July.

“How we’re going to be doing it hasn’t been totally laid out,” Keth said. “We’ve got a couple of ideas that are in the hopper. We’re going to figure out which one is actually gonna work the best and then run with it.”

The statement from the Lompoc Valley Festival Association board noted the organization’s “plans are to put our energy into the 2021 SpringFest and Flower Festival and make them better than ever.”

How those festivals will look is another question with no clear answer at this time.

Keth said he is fully confident the festivals would continue, but he said he feels they would not be the same as in past years.

For one, this year’s cancellations basically ensured the Festival Association will bring in little to no income this year.

“We’re gonna have to put on our thinking caps and do a lot of fundraising just to keep the lights on, basically,” Keth said. “But we’re hoping that this will give us the opportunity to get out there and get the donors back next year.”

Another significant factor is public health.

Keth noted that some carnival operators, all of which have been grounded during the pandemic, likely won’t be able to recover and return in 2021.

Those that do, he said, will likely face increased scrutiny, if not legal directives, in regard to their cleaning practices.

“It’s been nerve-wracking,” Keth said of the Festival Association's unprecedented 2020. “When you’re looking at the future of an organization and all the people that are involved with it, I think we’re looking at a total makeover.

“Until they get a vaccine out there,” he added, “I have a feeling we’re going to be looking at things a lot differently than we have ever before.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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Willis Jacobson covers news and other issues, primarily those that affect the Lompoc Valley and Vandenberg Air Force Base for the Lompoc Record. He is a graduate of The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.

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The 2020 Lompoc Flower Festival Queen Contest is pushing on, despite the Lompoc Valley Festival Association’s decision last month to call off this summer’s Flower Festival. The eight young ladies vying for the queen’s crown have continued to fundraise during the health crisis, and contest organizers have tentatively scheduled a couple of public events to recognize the candidates.

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