Annual festivals, arts events in Utah reschedule as coronavirus pandemic continues

(Chris Detrick | Tribune file photo ) Members of Malialole, a Polynesian dance group, perform during the 32nd annual Living Traditions Festival in May 2017. The annual festival is now tentatively rescheduled from May to Sept. 18 through 20 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The rhythm of Salt Lake City summers usually begins with empanadas and kebabs, folk dancers and traditional drummers, weavers and woodcarvers.

The Living Traditions Festival, held for the past 34 years, celebrates Utah’s cultural diversity and kicks off the annual round of outdoor summer concerts and gatherings. But it is now tentatively rescheduled from May to Sept. 18 through 20 — one of the three big downtown Salt Lake City summer festivals canceled or pushed back to fall, due to the coronavirus.

The Utah Arts Festival, which draws some 70,000 attendees over four days in June to Salt Lake City’s Library Square and Washington Square, is off for 2020. The Utah Pride Festival and Parade has been postponed from June until Sept. 26 and 27.

To help make sure the new plans stick — for those and other events — dozens of Utah sports and performance venues sent the same message this week: To “save summer and fall” from the coronavirus, Utahns should stay home now.

“After a long period of isolation, our communities are going to need live interaction, connection and celebration more than ever,” the groups said. “Help us flatten the curve now in order to help your favorite event or sport return.”

The email campaign, coordinated by the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts, went to subscribers and season-ticket holders of 27 arts groups, venues, booking agencies and sports teams.

The list ranged from the Utah Jazz and Real Salt Lake to the Utah Shakespeare Festival and FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention, all reminding Utahns to stay home when possible; venture out only for food, medicine or essential work; wash hands often and properly follow social distancing guidelines.

The Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City has canceled performances from June 1 to 9, what would have been its opening week, and hopes to launch its season on June 10, if public health officials give the OK.

And for now, all Days of ’47 activities — from the rodeo to the iconic July 24 parade — are going ahead as scheduled, pending pandemic developments, according to organizers. The July 24 state holiday marks the anniversary of the arrival of pioneers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

After deliberating for weeks about their June event as the state began to shut down, Utah Arts Festival organizers decided that canceling, rather than picking a new date, was their best option.

“Delaying the festival until the late summer or early fall isn’t as easy as it might seem,” explained Lisa Sewell, UAF’s executive director, in a statement. “There are many moving parts, many people and many factors to consider.”

In the end, “uncertainty about the availability of artists, vendors, partners and volunteers, as well as the developing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, raised more concerns than solutions,” she said.

The event features music, dance and spoken word artists on multiple performance stages — as well as film, food, art and technology, street theater, children’s activities and more than 170 visual artists displaying and selling their works.

UAF aims to “keep the festival vibes alive” through other events once the pandemic, and the efforts to fight it, have passed, and those plans will be announced soon, according to its statement.

Pride made the decision to postpone, and is hoping Utahns will have the opportunity — and the revived interest — in gathering in large numbers in September.

“With all the uncertainty and stress we’re all feeling due to this pandemic, let’s have Pride last all summer long, culminating with the biggest turn out we’ve ever seen at the Pride Festival in September," Rob Moolman, executive director of Utah Pride Center, said in a statement. “I think we could all use more love and Pride this year.”

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Love On, Live On,” and more information can be found at utahpridecenter.org.

The Salt Lake City Arts Council has pushed the entry deadlines for the Living Traditions Festival to June 12 for craft artists and performing groups; community partners have until Aug. 7. Applications are available online at livingtraditionsfestival.com for the gathering, held in Washington Square Park surrounding City Hall.