Shifting, difficult state guidelines: Corn Hill Arts Festival, Greek Fest plans explained


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Organizers of the Corn Hill Art Festival say after months of discussing, and anticipating changing guidelines, they are closing the discussion for any plans at all this summer.

The festival has been going 53 years strong. It’s a two-day arts event that takes place on nine streets in the Corn Hill neighborhood, featuring live music stages, as well as over 300 local artists. Festival Chairperson Nick Howell says they can see up to 150,000 people in those two days.

A large concern that contributed to this decision, was not having enough time to plan ahead with ever-changing guidelines.

“Immediately last year we were thinking about 2021 and the beginning of this year, it was largely monitoring what was going on, recent guidelines,” Howell said. “It became a waiting game where we pushed a decision off as long as we could. In the end we faced the facts, drew a line in the sand that if we didn’t have any significant way to know if it would be possible or not we would pull the plug.”

He says making decisions early is important, you have to have chess pieces in order early before making your final move.

The current guidelines from the state are also not feasible, he says.

“The numbers are going to change between now and July,” Howell said. “The current number is you can have 200 unvaccinated people or 500 vaccinated people, but you have to maintain a perimeter to house these people. Corn Hill being an open layout makes it difficult to secure a perimeter and monitor those coming in and out.”

Howell says it’s a matter of scaling, and keeping people safe in that enclosed area.

On Wednesday during Gov. Cuomo’s coronavirus briefing, officials announced the state would have updated guidance within the week pertaining to outdoor event capacity restrictions.

For now, Howell says it’s onto 2022 plans. While these guidelines are expected to lift soon, it wasn’t soon enough.

Other festivals like the Lilac Festival and Rochester Greek Festival are planning for this summer, but in a reimagined way.

Father Angelo Maggos says food is a big part of the prep work – and gets ordered as early as the summer before. But with the uncertainty and financial loss over the past year, those orders of up to $20,000 just couldn’t be placed. Food and festivities can only happen on a much smaller scale.

Maggos says they’re planning for a take-out system, with limited seating, and no live music, vendors or dancing. “We just didn’t have the confidence the way it was progressing we would be able to have the festival in the way the manner that we’d like to have it,” he said.

Maggos says the church ran a few fish fry drives in March to feel out a system that could work for the summer. The festival would not happen in May as it normally does, but rather be pushed out to August and September.

And a year from now, he has hope for a different conversation. “I’m optimistic that everybody would be vaccinated, we don’t have to wear masks, now that would be the ultimate.”

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