Greenfield’s 2020 Greene Countrie Towne Festival has been canceled by the Greenfield Rotary Club due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. Only one element of the festival is still in play, and that is the popular Rotary auction, which will be conducted online.
“We hate to cancel the festival, but under the circumstances it seems the prudent thing to do,” said Greenfield Rotary Club President Ron Coffey. “The festival has been positioned on the third weekend of July for years, and the 2020 dates would have been July 17-19. We don’t want to put anyone’s health at risk, and hope that the many people who support the festival each year will understand.”
The Greenfield Rotary Club has been having online meetings since the pandemic brought so many “normal” activities to a halt. The status of the festival has been a topic of discussion for several weeks, and at the Thursday, May 21 meeting, members voted to cancel the festival for this year.
“While we were meeting today, we got word that the Ohio State Fair had been canceled. As our festival on the third weekend of July would have been a few weeks earlier than the state fair, we felt we needed to make a decision,” Coffey said. “Vendors, other participating organizations and the public need to know what the festival’s status is so that they can firm up their own plans.”
Earlier in May, Rotary International recommended that all Rotary clubs refrain from in-person meetings and events through the remainder of the calendar year. Although each Rotary club is an autonomous organization, these guidelines sparked considerable discussion. Guidelines from the Rotary district are more liberal, but still recommend no physical meetings through the month of June.
“We are hopeful that as Ohio and other states continue to reopen there will not be a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases,” Coffey said. “We all want to get together with friends, take vacations and go to festivals, concerts and sporting events. Our hope is that these things will be feasible soon, and we look forward to resuming the Greene Countrie Towne Festival in 2021.”
“We have shared some ideas with artist Tammy Wells about creating limited edition prints to be auctioned at or near the date of the Greene Countrie Towne Festival this year,” Coffey said. “These prints have been extremely popular over the years and we appreciate the support of the buyers who support the auction each year. We also plan to sell other items similar to those sold at past auctions and would be happy to accept donations of new items.”
Details of how the auction will proceed are still being developed and will be announced in advance of the event.
The festival auction has been the Greenfield Rotary Club’s biggest fundraiser for many years and is an important source of revenue for maintenance of the Ralph W. Phillips Recreation and Civic Center and other Rotary projects in the community, Coffey said.
The local Rotary club began sponsoring the festival in 1987 when the previous sponsor of the Greene Countrie Towne Festival was beset with financial problems. “Ironically, I was the incoming president of the Rotary club in 1987 and we put together a smaller, one-day festival to help fill the void,” Coffey said. “I never expected we would need to cancel the festival, but this just shows how unpredictable life can be.”
Since those early years, the Rotary-sponsored festival grew and took on the name Wheels of Progress Festival for several decades before the name was officially changed back to the Greene Countrie Towne Festival in 2011. General Duncan McArthur, who founded Greenfield in 1799, described the community as a “greene countrie towne.”
The Greenfield Rotary Club meets each Thursday at noon using Zoom technology. When feasible, club members will return to in-person luncheon meetings at the Catch 22 Sports Pub in Greenfield.
For more information about the club, visit www.greenfieldrotary.org.