Festival, event cancellations lead to more than $82M in losses

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Raleigh Christmas Parade and festivals such as Hopscotch, Wideopen Blueglass, African-American Cultural, Artsplosure, Dreamville and SunFest, are some of the big events most of us have been able to enjoy in years past.

Thousands of people usually flock to Fayetteville Street or Dorothea Dix Park to take part in the festivities, but the pandemic is putting a halt to large gatherings--and there might not be another in 2020.

The City of Raleigh is not issuing special event permits through of the end of October and will soon make a decision what to do for the rest of year.

The cancellations are having a major impact on our local economy.

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"A lot of these events do bring in people outside of Raleigh, so those heads-and-beds with the hotels and people going to restaurants--all of that is certainly impacted by not having these events," said City of Raleigh special events manager Whitney Schoenfeld.

The latest data from the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau show 170 conventions, meeting and group sporting events throughout Wake County have been taken off the books and that's resulting in an $82 million in economic loss.

Nearly 95 large scale events and festivals have been canceled or rescheduled.

Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau said hotel lodging taxes have also taken a 75 percent nosedive, and with less people coming into town, 16 hotels remain closed.

Wake County usually draws nearly 17 million visitors a year. They spend more than $2.7 billion locally and help sustain more than 67,000 jobs.

Schoenfeld said even when the state eases up on restrictions for large gatherings--currently at 25 people--festivals and large-scale events will look different.

"(You) could have to get your temperature taken at an event, could you have to wear a mask, the exchange of money and cash. So we're thinking about all of those things for when the time does come to bring events back to our city," she said.

Some festivals are pivoting and reimagining what they might look like. For example, Bluegrass is scheduled for the first week of October and going virtual this year.
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