Rise in Covid cases compels Riverfest board to call off event for second year

Riverfest has canceled the 2021 event, originally slated for the first weekend in October, due to Covid-19 cases still rising. (Port City Daily/Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON — Wilmington’s Riverfest committee announced Friday on social media it would skip the 2021 three-day event, slated to take place the first weekend in October in downtown Wilmington.

“As the COVID-19 cases in New Hanover County continue to rise, the Riverfest Board has been monitoring the guidelines from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services,” the Facebook post announced. “Everyone from our vendors, attendees, sponsors, and downtown merchants have been affected by this pandemic.”

It’s the second year in a row the festival has canceled because of the pandemic.


The fall event has faced recurrent scheduling conflicts throughout the years, though most have been due to inclement weather. In 2016 it was canceled from Hurricane Matthew and in 2018 it was pushed to November because of Hurricane Florence.

Because of all the moving parts of the festival, planners said it would be difficult to logistically manage and keep the community safe amid the rise of Covid-19 cases locally. New Hanover County has 1,476 presumed active cases and 207 deaths to date as of Sept. 4. The CDC has the percent positivity for the county holding at 14.76% (health officials’ goal is to be 5% or less).

“Public safety is our number one priority, and with some discussion with city officials and law enforcement, this is the best course of action,” the board stated.

The economic impact the fall festival has on the city, as well as local nonprofits, community groups, small businesses, individuals, and vendors, amounts to $13 million, according to the festival website. Riverfest draws in over 100,000 visitors and residents.

“We want to do our part for the health and safety of our community and mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19,” the statement continued.

The board promised to make 2022 “bigger and better,” with its arts and crafts fair, street food vendors, live music, car shows, children’s area, and more. They have scheduled it for Oct. 7-9, 2022.

All vendors who signed up for 2021 will be reimbursed starting Sept. 7, the board noted.


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