W.C. Handy Music Festival will be scaled down due to coronavirus

W.C. Handy Festival will be different this year due to coronavirus.

Posted: Jul 8, 2020 3:30 PM
Updated: Jul 8, 2020 8:26 PM

The W.C. Handy Music Festival in the Shoals this year will be different because of the coronavirus.

Festival officials said things are changing by the minute. Originally scheduled for July 17-26, officials said a schedule of events will be finalized this week.

There will be some virtual events, too.

The festival's T-shirt design this year is a throwback retro style with red, blue, and yellow colors. It features a doctor and nurse doing a swing-style dance, a tribute to those on the frontline of the coronavirus fight.

"It's disheartening I know for a lot of the organizers and musicians," said Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Director Rob Carnegie.

Normally the W.C. Handy festival means live music in restaurants, and other venues across three counties. There are hundreds of events during the two-week festival that pay tribute to Florence native and father of the blues W.C. Handy.

"It's a part of the history of this area. It's a significant event. It's so widespread and there are so many events. People love it," said Carnegie.

While plans are being finalized for the festival, Carnegie said it isn't the only Shoals event impacted by coronavirus.

"You have to look at this in terms of all the events that are being cancelled. All the festivals from Shindig, Arts Alive, Shoals Fest, and several others, it's significant. In terms of a very high level number on a national basis they are expecting tourism to be down 45%," said Carnegie.

Carnegie said the Shoals area has already lost $1.8 million in tourism dollars from fishing tournaments being cancelled. He said compared to last year hotel bookings in the area are down.

"We were down 36% in March, 78% in April, and 64% in May. We don't have our June numbers yet," said Carnegie.

Carnegie said it's been tough to navigate this pandemic. Some W.C. Handy events will happen with safety precautions and social distancing. He hopes people will understand to expect something different this year.

"As heartbreaking as it is, I think people are beginning to condition themselves after three-plus months (of coronavirus restrictions,)" said Carnegie.

A lot of W.C. Handy events take place outside or in restaurants so it will be up to those particular places to require patrons to wear a mask or not.

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