Amidst the bustling planning and release of event information, the City of Clewiston and the Clewiston Sugar Festival Committee issued notice, on the evening of Tuesday, March 10, 2020, that the Sugar Festival had been cancelled. This cancellation came about after a city-wide policy had been adopted, regarding the cancelling of large events and mass gatherings.
“City officials are aware of the latest information on new cases of COVID-19 in Florida and particularly South Florida and guidance contained in the Governor’s Executive Order 20-51 and 20-52 and specifically the CDC guidelines for mass gatherings. In consideration of this information and on behalf of the City, festival organizers have been advised to cancel any upcoming large community events. Although there are no known cases in Hendry County, local officials are working with public health officials to assess information as it is provided to us. The reality is any COVID-19 outbreak would stress available local resources and limitations within the community, and it is a risk deemed too high to take by allowing public mass gatherings with thousands of individuals located in a specific defined area.
This action is taken with deep regret and City officials offer apologies for any inconvenience this may cause, but the City must in an abundance of caution take whatever prudent action is necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of this community,” read a statement from Randy Martin, Clewiston City Manager.
“In an abundance of caution due to the recommendations regarding limiting potential exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and in keeping with the City of Clewiston’s recommendation to avoid large public events, the 2020 Clewiston Sugar Festival has been cancelled,” read a post on the Sugar Festival’ s Facebook Page. “This family festival has historically been about fun and fellowship for our rural community and its guests,” said Hillary Hyslope, Chairperson of the Sugar Festival Committee and Executive Director, Clewiston Chamber of Commerce.”
The post went on to explain, “While we regret that the festival will not take place at this time, we are more concerned about doing everything possible to protect our community, our families and all of our guests. While no one has tested positive for COVID-19 in Clewiston or Hendry County, the City of Clewiston issued a notice requesting that all non-critical events be suspended. The Florida Dept of Health and the Center for Disease Control have cautioned organizers of mass gatherings that “health officials may ask you to modify, postpone, or cancel large events for the safety and well-being of your event staff, participants, and the community.” In response to the guidance, several large gatherings and events (including major sporting events) are being cancelled throughout the state.” The Facebook post was accompanied by a link to the Governor’s Executive Order 20-51 and 20-52.
While the Sugar Festival’s website had not yet been updated, the City of Clewiston Chamber of Commerce, whose phone number is listed online, confirmed the news by phone Wednesday morning.