The Berkeley Springs-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce announced Tuesday morning that the Apple Butter Festival, scheduled each year for the second weekend in October has been cancelled for 2021. This is the second year in a row that COVID-19 has shut down the signature festival, which draws thousands of people to Morgan County.
The Chamber board voted unanimously to pull the plug on the festival amid a nationwide and local rise in cases of the highly-contagious Delta variant of COVID-19.
“After numerous discussions with regional hospitals and medical professionals, a unanimous decision was made by the board of directors to cancel early this morning. We have been tracking numbers locally and regionally for a few weeks,” said Chamber Director Lori Hansroth. “Last year there were 12 confirmed cases in Morgan County for the month of August, and as of August 29th this year there are 139 confirmed cases. Most state and national researchers are projecting that the peak of the current surge will hit between mid-September and mid-October, with a sudden drop-off that could last from one to four weeks.”
Event organizers said the open layout of the festival throughout Berkeley Springs means there would be no way to manage crowd numbers or enforce CDC-recommended distancing guidelines.
“Unlike other nearby festivals and fairs, Berkeley Springs doesn’t have a large, gated location that would allow us to control admission and provide for greater social distancing that could better protect event attendees. Safety and the well-being of our community are a priority.” said Board President Terri Beard.
“We understand that many in our community and vendors use this event to provide financial support for the year, unfortunately deferring the decision could also cost them. We had to make the best decision with all of the information that we have available.”
Event organizers said if the Governor’s office opted to limit gathering sizes or shut down festivals in response to COVID later this month, the Apple Butter Festival would stand to lose non-refundable expenses like permits, licenses and event insurance if they went ahead with planning at this stage.
“As a board of directors, we absolutely hate having to make this call and we recognize it may not be a popular one at that. Everyone loves the magic of the Apple Butter Festival, and we realize that it’s the people and community that make it so special. It’s important to protect that,” said Beard.
The announcement comes after officials from both the WV Forest Festival in Randolph County and the Italian Heritage Festival in Clarksburg announced their cancellations over the last week.