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Strawberry fields for never

In what might be the harbinger of another lost summer, the Festivals of Cedarburg board has canceled the popular Strawberry Festival for the second consecutive year citing COVID-19. It is a decision based on irrational fear, not science or reason, and other communities must not follow their disgraceful example.

The Festivals of Cedarburg is a private organization that plans and runs Cedarburg’s several festivals. The unanimous decision of the board was to cancel the Strawberry Festival to “ensure the safety of the community, attendees and participants” due to COVID19. While wrapped in the rhetoric of compassion, the decision deals a blow to the Cedarburg community and the local businesses, charities, and service organizations that benefit from the festival. The annual Strawberry Festival draws tens of thousands of visitors and is a major economic and cultural event for the community.

The board’s decision is rooted in fear, wrapped in ignorance, and sold as compassion. The evidence is clear that large outdoor events, like a festival, do not present a high risk of spreading COVID-19. For months, throughout the United States, there have been large gatherings like biker rallies, elections, concerts, festivals, spring break parties, sporting events, proms, and protests. Permanent venues like amusement parks and tourist attractions have been welcoming thousands of visitors a day. All of these mass gatherings are happening without causing a massive outbreak of COVID19.

Furthermore, here in Wisconsin, anyone over the age of 16 is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and supplies are readily available. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 4.2 million vaccine doses have been administered and the state has already been allocated almost 4 million more doses. State providers can administer over 90,000 doses per day. About 42% of Wisconsin’s residents have received at least one vaccine dose.

With open eligibility and plentiful doses of vaccines available, any adult who wants to be vaccinated can be vaccinated by the time the Strawberry Festival was scheduled to be held in late June. There are already stories circulating of health care providers having a surplus of vaccine doses as demand drops. In many areas of the state, a person could decide to be vaccinated in the morning and have their first dose by nightfall. Any adult who is concerned about working or attending the Strawberry Festival is able to be vaccinated.

Finally, there is the matter of personal choice and responsibility. We have all been dealing with COVID-19 for over a year and know the risks, and ways to mitigate those risks, quite well. Everyone is making their own personal risk assessment of how they will go about living with a virus that will be with the human race for the rest of time.

For some, that means a vaccine is the passport to normal life. For others, behavioral modifications like social distancing and masks are the key. Some people do not take any precautions at all. And some people will never leave their homes again. We are all making choices based on our health status and tolerance for risk. We are all able to accept the responsibility for the choices we make.

If people are not attending the Strawberry Festival in Cedarburg, they are still going about their lives in the manner that suits them. By canceling the Strawberry Festival, the organizers are not preventing the spread of COVID-19. All they are doing is robbing their community of an influx of economic activity that is desperately needed after a year of lockdowns and business restrictions. The board is strangling their own community with the fear of a preventable and treatable virus. It is not rational or compassionate. It is stupid and cruel.

Wisconsin’s summers are legendary for the bevy of local festivals, fairs, concerts, and events that draw people together with the bond of humanity. Citizens must demand that their events and traditions continue. If local organizers balk, then they should be replaced with people who actually care about the health of the community beyond the virus. We could all certainly use more community and human interaction after this long, long winter of isolation.

(Owen B. Robinson is a conservative political commentator and former West Bend resident. He can be reached at owen@bootsandsabers.com.)

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OWEN

ROBINSON

Everyone is making their own personal risk assessment of how they will go about living with a virus that will be with the human race for the rest of time.

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