Last March, Covid-19 forced California to cancel most social gatherings and events through the spring of 2020. Soon after, it was clear that summer 2020 would follow suit as fairs, festivals and other fun events were postponed or called off in the wake of the virus’s continued spread.
Now, autumn 2020 looks to suffer the same fate socially as the last two seasons. Many North Bay–based events and harvest celebrations are postponing their fall gatherings before July even begins, as Covid-19 continues to gain ground in the state and the Bay Area with increasing numbers of new cases each week.
In Sonoma County, fall traditionally begins prior to Labor Day—which is scheduled for Sept. 7 this year—as harvest-related events get rolling in August. One such event, now canceled, is Sebastopol’s popular Gravenstein Apple Fair.
Agricultural organization Farm Trails hosts the fundraising fair that celebrates the locally grown Gravenstein Apple. On the fair’s website, the Farm Trails team writes, “Though we can hardly imagine August in Sebastopol without the Apple Fair, we are fully on board with the County’s decision to cancel large gatherings. We are so grateful for the health care workers and first responders on the front lines and for all of the essential businesses (farmers/producers, nurseries, grocery store workers, postage and parcel services, etc.) who continue to sustain and support our lives during these unprecedented times. We are also appreciative of the sacrifices our entire community is making by staying at home to help flatten the curve.”
The fair organizers also note that Gravenstein apples will still be falling in Sonoma County this fall, and they hope to find ways to mark the occasion with virtual events or DIY activities.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that Farm Trails continues to make good on its mission to preserve farms forever in Sonoma County,” says Farm Trails Board President Vince Trotter, in a statement. “With our main fundraiser off the table, we’re certainly facing some financial challenges this year, but our farmers are fighting through this, and so will we. We’re cutting our expenses to the bone and looking at some creative ways to bring in revenue and make the 2021 fair better than ever.”
Other popular harvest and culinary events canceling their 2020 gatherings include the massive Taste of Sonoma wine-tasting extravaganza, the annual Heirloom Expo of food providers and enthusiasts best known for its giant pumpkin contest and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair’s Grand-Tasting and World Championship Grape Stomp Competition—though the Harvest Fair’s professional wine and food competitions will still be held remotely.
In Marin County, the arts are often a major part of the fall season, with festivals and fairs showcase both international and local artists and crafters.
One of Marin’s largest gatherings each fall is the Sausalito Art Festival, taking place on Labor Day weekend for more than 60 years. This year, the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation will pause production of this signature event due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and other current challenges associated with event production. On the festival’s website, the Foundation says it will plan a new iteration of the event “to meet a shifting arts and entertainment landscape.”
In addition to pandemic concerns, the Sausalito Art Festival Foundation writes that restrictions to access of the waterfront venue, competition for headlining musical talent and increased security costs and concerns are also factors in their decision to reimagine the event for 2021.
Another Marin fall staple, the Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, also recently announced its 2020 fest would be canceled due to Covid-19.
“For over sixty years our little festival has been a wonderful celebration of Mill Valley’s unique culture and community,” says festival executive director Steve Bajor, in a statement. “This year the responsibility to act prudently to ensure everyone’s safety is our top priority. Like so much we are missing, we are hopeful that the festival will return next year for us all to enjoy.”
Artists previously juried into the 2020 show will instead be featured on the festival’s website and will be invited to show their work in person at the next event, now scheduled for Sept. 18 and 19, 2021, in Old Mill Park.
Other fall arts events in the North Bay forgoing 2020 include Open Studios Napa Valley’s self-guided art tours, usually planned for two weekends in September, and the Sonoma County Art Trails, normally scheduled for two weekends in October. Still other major events canceled this fall include the Sound Summit music festival that celebrates Mount Tamalpais State Park each September at the historic Mountain Theater, and the Napa Valley Film Festival that was slated to happen in November.
“We appreciate the tremendous support and well wishes from our community during these uncertain times,” said Cinema Napa Valley Chairman Patrick Davila, in a statement. “Rest assured we will use this time to strengthen our commitment to our mission and develop new avenues to fulfill our vision. I look forward to seeing all of you in 2021 for our 10th year anniversary.”