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COVID-19 forces cancellation of Festival on-the-Green

MIDDLEBURY — The coronavirus has sadly claimed another major event: Middlebury’s much-loved Festival on-the-Green, which was to have taken place as usual this July. It will mark the first time in its more-than-40-year history that the festival will go silent, and it’s due to factors no one could have imagined.
“It’s with very heavy hearts — and after much discussion — we must let you know that this year’s Festival on-the-Green is canceled,” organizers wrote in a message to the community this week.
“We had hoped to embrace the spirit of ‘the show must go on,’ but circumstances beyond our control intervened.”
It was during an April 8 “virtual” meeting that the Festival board made its decision to cancel what would have been the 42nd edition of the festival. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to require social distancing and has taken a financial toll on businesses and individuals since mid-March. A seven-day extravaganza like Festival on-the-Green requires a lot of up front work and commitments from performers, many of whom travel long distances to Middlebury.
Organizers on Wednesday said they’d already booked 16 acts, representing a total of 56 performers. The lineup was scheduled to include The Big Takeover; The Oshima Brothers; Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem; Beg, Steal or Borrow; Bruce Molsky, Tony Trishka & Paula Bradley; VickiKristinaBarcelona; Kolonien; É.T.É; Kobo Town; The Paul Asbell Quintet; and Les Royal Pickles — plus lunchtime “Brown Bag” performers Chris Yerlig, Mimealot, Jon Gailmor, No Strings Marionette Company, Middlebury Music Camp and magician Tom Verner.
Festival officials generously elected to pay the aforementioned performers a portion of their respective appearance fees, amounting to a combined total of around $8,820, according to longtime festival volunteer Pat Boera.
“Touring musicians have been incredibly hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, as has our sound contractor,” she said through an email to the Independent. “We felt it was important to give them some support in this situation.”
News of the Festival on-the-Green cancellation is being met with great sadness. The event has become a fixture on the calendars of hundreds of people who each summer look forward to carving out a small spot on the Middlebury town green to hear top-notch musicians, singers and others perform in a large tent set up next to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.
Here are a sampling of reactions recently left on the Festival’s Facebook page, courtesy of Boera:
“Clearly hard, but the right move under such uncertainty.”
“So very, very sad. Always looked forward to this.”
“So sorry for all your hard-working volunteers, and secondly for those of us who love being there.”
“Oh my goodness! This is so said — I live in Texas now but look forward to this every year during my trip home.”
While 2020 will become a rare, sad footnote in the history of Festival on-the-Green, organizers are already setting their sights on a 2021 edition that will make up for lost time. There will be ample cause for celebrating the ability to gather again in numbers, and the substantial completion of a massive rail bridges project that will create additional hardships for downtown Middlebury this year.
“We promise to produce a marvelous festival next year… in our longtime home in the heart of the village,” the board said in its message to the community. “Being able to do that will mean that our community is in good health and in need of good music.”
Now, more than ever, the Festival on-the-Green needs financial support. Those wishing to contribute may log on to festivalonthegreen.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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