CHAMBER ANNOUNCES CANCELLATION OF 2020 RHODODENDRON FESTIVAL
The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce has announced it is canceling the 113th Rhododendron Festival.
Chamber executive director Bettina Hannigan met Monday, March 30, via virtual meeting with the Chamber’s presidential team and Florence city manager Erin Reynolds to forward the recommendation to the Chamber’s board of directors to cancel the event. The board approved.
For perspective, this will be the first time since WWII that Rhody Fest has been canceled.
“Based on the most current facts, government guidelines, and trending information, we must cancel Rhody Fest for 2020,” said Hannigan. “We gave this decision as long as we could and the deepest consideration. We had hoped for better news and a faster recovery.”
“Logistically, there is no way to predict or plan for a new date this year, or postpone it until fall,” added Hannigan. “Many chambers across the country are canceling events through July and some even into August.”
The Rhododendron Festival makes the single largest economic impact on Florence’s tourist-driven economy and serves as the kick-off to the tourism season.
“Because there is a lot at stake for our economy, we took the utmost consideration in this decision for our local businesses. We are a chamber of commerce and Rhody Fest brings our small businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars in commerce. Around 1900 people in Florence rely on tourism-based employment, and tourism pumps about $147 million into our community each year,” she added.
Hannigan explained that because so much has changed so quickly with respect to the COVID-19 situation the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce is working hard for member businesses and the community to continue promoting and advancing the cause of commerce and doing all they can to make Florence the best place to live, work, shop, eat, play, and stay—now, and as the crisis passes.
“We must be vigilant in adhering to Governor Kate Brown’s recent edicts to ‘stay home, stay healthy’ and, for now, to discourage the recreational travel and tourism we all depend on for a vibrant economy,” said Hannigan. “A healthy, vibrant community is essential for everyone’s success. As a chamber of commerce, and as a community at large, our top priority should be preventing further spread of COVID-19 and taking care of each other through these uncertain times.
“Still, we cannot wait to welcome visitors back to enjoy all that Oregon’s Coastal Playground has to offer as soon as any restrictions are lifted, and it is safe to do so.”
Hannigan said she is working along with civic and business leaders to continue doing their best to diligently walk that fine line between overreacting, under-reacting, and responding to the latest changing guidelines. She asks the public to “carefully and safely support businesses that are able to stay open, and to give each other grace, respect, and encouragement, and a lot of social distancing as we all try to walk that line with them.”
The Chamber’s Visitors’ Center will remain closed and in-person Chamber events such as Business After Hours and Noon Forum have been cancelled until further notice. Members and the community are encouraged to watch for virtual events from the Chamber that will provide new and updated resources for businesses impacted by the virus. Hannigan says the Chamber will continue to communicate with the community and stakeholders through its weekly email newsletter, the website, press releases, and social media.
The Florence Rhododendron Festival is Oregon’s second-oldest floral festival, bested only by a year by the Portland Rose Festival, and sees thousands of visitors from around the state and across the country.
“Generations of families have enjoyed the annual Florence Rhododendron Festival by attending, enjoying the Davis Shows carnival, exhibiting their rhodies, showing off their classic cars and motorcycles, being in the parade, and shopping and dining in Old Town and all around town,” adds Hannigan. “It’s a family tradition, an Oregon institution. And it’s heartbreaking to have to cancel it this year.”