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Hannibal Folklife Festival cancels after COVID-19 related vendor, exhibitor cancellations

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The latest in a series of COVID-19 related event cancellations come from officials with the Hannibal Historic Folklife Festival who have decided to not hold the event this year.

They said the event draws around 20,000 people to downtown Hannibal every year.

Organizers of the festival from the Hannibal Arts Council said it isn't just the streets the Folklife Festival usually fills up, but also local hotels and attractions.

Vendors for the Folklife festival said it's a hit for them as well.

"I've been exhibiting in the show since 1990, I've been there every year since then, I'm typically set up in front of Java Jive," said Folklife Festival exhibitor John Stoeckley.

He said while it hurts not having the festival this year, he gets why it happened this way.

"You can hardly walk up and down the street during the festival, there would have been a surge of virus patients the following several weeks, so I think it's a good decision," said Stoeckley.

But organizers with the festival said there are more reasons that influenced their decision to cancel.

"Over the last couple months the Hannibal Arts Council has been meeting with our festival partners and just looking at the current climate, and finally just decided at some point in time we had to make a decision yes or no, so we could move forward," said Hannibal Arts Council Executive director Michael Gaines.

He said they spoke with tourism officials, the health department, and more about the issue before making this decision, and with many vendors, exhibitors and more canceling;

"We had to really look at what it would look like, and it would not look like folklife," said Gaines.

Rachel Bearce, Hannibal History Museum board member and exhibitor at many Hannibal festivals, said it's just another loss in an already tough year for downtown attractions.

"Once the steampunk festival was canceled I knew eventually that the Folklife Festival would be canceled, I was kinda waiting for the other shoe to drop," said Bearce.

Gaines said the festival is one of their biggest fundraising events of the year.

Other events effected in Hannibal this year include the canceled Twain on Main, the currently rescheduled Big River Comicon, and the canceled Samuel L. Clemens arts festival, part of National Tom Sawyer Days.

Frank Healy

Multimedia Journalist at WGEM

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