Concern about the coronavirus pandemic has put the kibosh one of the pinnacle summer events in Waunakee this year – WaunaFest.
The WaunaFest Committee announced Wednesday evening that the event, scheduled each year for the last full weekend of July, has been canceled. The committee is instead setting its sights on WaunaFest 2021, when the village will celebrate its 150th year.
“It was a unanimous decision on behalf of the membership of the clubs,” said WaunaFest President Leonard Allen.
The WaunaFest Committee is comprised of Waunakee service organizations such as the Lions, Lioness Club, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce and others.
Allen said the decision came with a great deal of sadness as WaunaFest has been one of the pivotal points of Waunakee for decades.
The main concern among the community organizations was safety for the attendees at the softball tournament who were also being served food, Allen said. They were also concerned about the volunteers, with many at the age for highest COVID-19 risk. Many of those volunteers could choose not to participate this year.
All felt the sense of uncertainty, not knowing when the pandemic will come to end. Just days before, County Executive Joe Parisi had announced that the state of emergency would continue in Dane County until July 15, which Allen descried as “an even bigger cloud.”
“A lot of people are arguing that the curve is flattening, but others are saying it’s not. There’s uncertainty. We don’t know when this will be through.”
If some restrictions were lifted, attendees may still be required to wear personal protective equipment such as masks.
“Everybody agrees that everybody would like to go to WaunaFest right now. If I had a trash fire in my yard, everybody would come,” Allen said.
The softball teams who participate in tournaments throughout WaunaFest weekend would have wanted to play, but they wouldn’t bring their families, Allen added.
With many visitors wary of congregating now, the organizers questioned whether enough would attend to make the event viable, Allen added.
“The third thing was the uncertainty of the economy,” Allen said. Volunteers said they felt uncomfortable about asking sponsors, many of which are small, local businesses, to contribute when their livelihoods were affected. Attendees may also feel reluctant to spend money during these uncertain economic times, Allen added.
“We started to reflect on the fact that next year is the Sesquicentennial. We would like to be a major player in that and have events culminate in that. We want to put as much energy and effort and volunteer time in that,” Allen said. “So we are going to start right now making it the best WaunaFest ever.”
The festival has been a Waunakee tradition for more than three decades. Each of the clubs, which host craft fairs, food stands and other venues, is invoiced for a portion of the proceeds to go into a reserve fund.
Other activities associated with WaunaFest are canceled, as well, including the WaunaFest Raffle, the car show and Lioness Arts and Craft Fair.
Ballplayers may decide to have a smaller tournament, and the WaunaSpike organizers have not indicated yet whether that tournament will be canceled. No decision has been made about the WaunaFest Run yet.