First Arts for All and now the Lawton International Festival has been cancelled. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause postponements, cancellations and closures and it doesn't look like it's going to stop, or get any better any day soon. It's completely destroyed all the Sping and Summer events locally and nationally. We're not even close to Fall or Winter but health experts are predicting COVID-19 to still be around so we're expecting even more cancellations and postponements as the weeks and months go by. Lets all hope and pray there isn't a significant second wave within the next couple of months or what few things we have scheduled will disappear.

It's going to be strange not being at International Festival it's been a tradition for years and years. While I certainly enjoy all the vendors, arts and crafts, performances and learning all about different countries and cultures, I think it's the food I'll miss most. I'd spend all 3 days eating at the festival and trying all kinds of different cuisines, most of which were meat on a stick. Does it get any better than that? I think not. I guess we'll have to do without this year. Below is the official press release from the City of Lawton and the International Festival committee:

Lawton’s International Festival
canceled due to COVID-19

LAWTON - After careful deliberation and discussions, the International Festival Committee, the Lawton Arts & Humanities Council, and the City of Lawton have made the difficult decision to cancel the 41st annual International Festival for 2020.

This year’s festival was scheduled to take place at Elmer Thomas Park from Sept. 25 to Sept. 27. Last year, it drew more than 25-thousand people with over 60 vendors from across the country. The annual three-day fest will now be held on September 24-26, 2021. The festival has been held annually since 1979.

A statement from the International Festival Committee: In canceling the festival, several factors were considered, including public health, city resources, and economic impact. After careful, diligent, and thoughtful consideration and out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of the community - including artists, attendees, vendors, volunteer participants and staff – International Festival will not take place this year.

"It was a difficult decision,” said Chair of the International Festival Committee Bobbi Whitson. "It is painful. We know thousands of people will miss the International Festival this year, but it was the only responsible decision. No one has a crystal ball. Yet, given the information we have today, we cannot in good conscience proceed with the festival this year. We do not know what's going to happen regarding COVID-19 come September."

The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is also a major factor for not having the event this year. “Since this is a city co-sponsored event, the budget for the City of Lawton has severely suffered, sponsorships have decreased drastically, and even the number of vendor applications are at an all-time low,” said Whitson.

Sponsorship for the event is vital and those sponsors have been financially impacted by the ongoing pandemic, which has hammered the state and local economy. Unfortunately, budgets are currently stretched thin. Many sponsors are unable to support the event this year.

There is also a concern for the health of everyone who attends and the 400 festival volunteers who assist with the event. There are too many risk factors that cannot be controlled especially with a mass gathering that occurs during the International Festival.

The committee members stated, by making this decision, they are better placed to conserve their resources, financial and other, for the long-term sustainability for the festival. “We want to be ready and at full strength when it is safe for all to resume outdoor festivals.”