Photo of Washington County Fair

South County’s major spring and summer festivals are quickly canceling or changing in the aftermath of Gov. Raimondo’s announcement today that she was banning large gatherings of all kinds for the summer as the state and nation continues to confront a raging coronavirus.

The Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce announced it was converting its early May Virtu Arts Festival, usually held in Westerly’s bucolic Wilcox Park, into a Virtual Virtu Art Show; the Misquamicut Business Association has canceled its Springfest, scheduled for May 8-10;  the Washington County Fair has been cancelled for the first time in 54 years; the Ocean Community Chamber canceled its annual duck race; and Rhythm & Roots, the Labor Day weekend music festival has also canceled.

Still to be heard from is Charlestown’s Seafood Festival, held on the same August weekend as the Newport Jazz Festival, which canceled yesterday along with the Newport Folk Festival. The Newport Music Festival, the chamber music festival held in the mansions of Newport during the first three weeks of July, announced earlier in the week that it too was changing its festival into a series of winter holiday events.

In a Facebook post, Chuck Wentworth, founder of Rhythm and Roots wrote: “Regrettably I have to announce that there will not be a Rhythm & Roots Festival this coming Labor Day weekend. Today the governor of Rhode Island decreed that all large events, including festivals, will be cancelled throughout the rest of the summer. 

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“Once I take some time to process this news, I will release an official statement with more information. Thanks to everyone from the fans, musicians, staff, volunteers and vendors for all your support over the years.”

The Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce will roll out a series of virtual art shows, replacing the Virtu Arts Festival, beginning Sunday, May 3. 

Lisa Kanicki, president of the chamber, said that every Sunday in May artists will set up temporary booths, from which the Chamber will broadcast live on Facebook.

“It will be an intimate way for people to meet the artist and see their work,” Kanicki said. She said viewers can ask questions or comment live, and artists can respond. Those wishing to purchase any works, can call into the chamber and arrange for curbside pickup.

The Chamber has been running a similar program, shop local, on Facebook live each weekend for the past couple of weeks, focusing on several local businesses.

During the Art Show, each of the artists will highlight their works from a half hour to 45 minutes. A full lineup of artists is on the chamber’s website at www.oceanchamber.org and its Facebook page.

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