For Immediate Release
Cancellation of the 39th Annual Townsend Arts and Craft Fair
To our devoted vendors, members, and patrons,
After much deliberation, the Townsend Historical Society has decided to cancel the 39th Annual Arts and Craft Fair. Due to current limitations and future uncertainties of the COVID-19 situation, the event planners cannot adequately address the many problems which have arisen as a result of the pandemic. This decision did not come lightly, and we know the news will be received with mixed feelings and responses. Please be aware that we are equally hurt and disappointed that we will not be able to share this fall favorite with you this year.
Since 1981, the Townsend Arts and Craft Fair has been dedicated to providing an outlet for quality vendors and their wares. Townsend Common, the heart of our community, provides the perfect backdrop. It is situated on a major crossroad and captures traffic heading in all directions. We are located in North-Central, Massachusetts, known for its antique trail, apple picking, and as the gateway to New Hampshire’s Monadnock region. The fair draws on local and regional tourism and advertises widely to receive the broadest possible exposure. Our success has been measured by seeing familiar faces, matched by an equal number of new visitors. We regularly welcome new vendors to our devoted band of followers. For two days, merchants transform the Common into a vast marketplace filled with activity. During peak visitation, it is a spectacle to behold.
These are troubling times we’re living in. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our everyday lives. Whole communities are shuttered. Many different types of businesses have been suspended. Restrictions on travel are in place. Schools have concluded for the year. Every day seems like a real struggle as we venture out to essential businesses and return home. After three long months of quarantine, the Commonwealth is slowly lifting restrictions. We hit a medical milestone with 0 new cases for the first time. As individuals social distance, we might see the lifting of all restrictions. We would like to believe that by fall, some normalcy would be restored. We cannot, however, ignore the rise in cases in other states. Outside of New England, a spike precipitated by civil unrest means that we must proceed with caution.
History teaches us many lessons, and it is entirely relevant to our everyday lives. Scientists often reference the influenza outbreak in the early twentieth century as an example of what awaits us without vaccines and listening to sound advice from our leaders, boards of health, and beyond. We strive to set a solid example for our members, volunteers, and patrons to ensure the quality of our offerings. We are currently closed to the general public and are accessible through our website (www.townsendhistoricalsociety.org), telephone (978-597-2106) or on social media (Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram). We missed the Spaulding Elementary School’s third graders for their annual visit. Half of our planned programs have been canceled, and it is not yet clear if we will be able to have any in-person programs at all. We’re experimenting with digital programs and offerings, but we have a long way to go before we’re ready for you to join us.
Without knowing when current restrictions will be further relaxed, the fair planners have to take into account new social distancing restrictions, the safety of our vendors, health code requirements when serving food and beverage, and the sanitation surrounding our restrooms. Townsend Common can accommodate a large number of vendors and guests on the ground. We can direct the flow of persons and enforce distance between tents. The more significant problem surrounds the preparation and serving of consumables. It is technically infeasible to meet the many new requirements imposed for safe service. We cannot control donations made to the bake table. Our goal of adding a hard cider, wine or craft beer vendor has been altogether eliminated. The loss of these elements made the decision for us. The last straw was the need to sanitize our facilities often (and perhaps every use). This imposition is something nobody wants to take on. All of the factors led to a vigorous debate by the Board of Directors. The outcome was a unanimous vote, standing in solidarity together to preserve the integrity of the event. This year’s fair will not go on.
The loss of our annual fundraiser impacts our 501(c)3 non-profit organization particularly hard. Our vendors, members, and guests might not know that every dollar raised by vendor fees and gifts sold at our booth are applied to our everyday expenses. We own five buildings, pay utilities, maintain collections, and offer programs. The Fall Arts and Craft Fair has allowed us to accomplish so much over the years, and its loss will be felt. Also, we partner with the Townsend Couples Club and split the proceeds of all the hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, soda, water, and dessert sold by volunteers of both organizations. We know they too will feel the loss. It will be necessary for the Townsend Historical Society to have a new event to bridge the gap and meet our fiscal obligations. Nothing can replace the fair, but we cannot go dormant for the entire season either.
Our creative directors are already working to maintain vitality infused into the organization. Although in its infancy, we expect to hold an Antiques Appraisal Day on Saturday, September 19th, together with a silent auction. Some of our vendors have already offered to donate items to support our cause. We seek additional donations of handmade crafts, services, antiques, and gift cards to be auctioned off with the proceeds benefiting our organization. All donations are tax-deductible. Any vendor or business that contributes will be listed on our website on a page specific to the auction. It will include a photo of the items/services available and relevant contact (website/telephone/address, etc.). Our goal is to raise awareness of both your donation and our upcoming event. Donations can be dropped off at the Reed Homestead, 72 Main Street, by appointment. Besides, you can become a sustaining partner by joining as a member. Members are our lifeblood and contribute more than a quarter of our annual budget. Every donation counts.
While unfortunate that we will not be able to have our signature event, it provides us with adequate time to begin planning for our 40th anniversary. We are committed to hosting the Arts and Craft Fair in the fall of 2021. We hope to address the many issues faced now and in years past. COVID-19 may present challenges, but we are not defeated. We must stand firm together, so a year from now, we will be in the full throws of preparing for the season of foliage, produce, folk music, and arts and crafts. We will miss you but know you’ll join us when the time is right. Stay safe and stay healthy.
Ryan D. Hayward
President, Townsend Historical Society
Taber Morrell, Site Administrator