Milford’s Riverwalk Festival canceled over virus concerns

MILFORD — This year’s Riverwalk “Freedom” Festival in Milford has been canceled due to concerns over the coronavirus.

A message on the committee’s Facebook page Friday said, in part, that “it is in the best interest of all, for the safety of the public, vendors, sponsors and volunteers to cancel the September 19, 2020 event. This decision was not made lightly. Many considerations were made and thank you to the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford Board of Directors, the City of Milford and all those that assisted with making the final decision.”

Committee chairwoman Angela Dorey said Friday afternoon that the infrastructure of the festival would not be able to handle a “socially distant” event.

“As passionate as I am about the festival and wanting to change with the times and we’ve got ideas to do things virtually and with social separation, I just ultimately, between myself, the chamber of commerce, board of directors, the city — they’ve been very supportive, but we’re just not equipped to keep everyone as safe as needed,” she said.

“On the day of the festival, 90% of the people on the streets are volunteers. Like I said, we’re not equipped to be able to keep everyone safe and healthy. So, we just decided to postpone our 20th anniversary.”

Those who have already sent their registration and deposit for this year’s event will be issued a refund.

The big day on Milford’s Riverwalk normally includes crafters, vendors, a kids’ corner, a car show, food trucks, the Duck Dash, a beer garden and live music that all culminates with fireworks over the Mispillion River.

As the Sept. 19 date gets closer, Ms. Dorey said the festival committee may bring some events online, including the Duck Dash, where numbered rubber ducks that have been chosen by participants race down the river for prizes.

“We have entertained the idea of having a virtual Duck Dash. But we really haven’t starting planning those things yet. Now, I’m in the process of kind of taking it all in and working with the rest of the committee to try and think of things that we can do to keep the festival and the community tied together,” said Ms. Dorey, who is marking her ninth year as chairwoman.

“Perhaps, we’ll do some games for kids. Or they can submit their coloring contest online or something. We thought about contacting people who were involved in the festival planning in the past 20 years. People from back in the beginning that created the festival and how things were different and what some of their favorite things about the fair are in interviews. And then possibly, just releasing those around the time of the festival. It would be a time to stroll down memory lane and really recognize all the hard work that’s been put into it over the years.”

Ms. Dorey said they are always looking for people who can contribute ideas and/or their time to this year’s virtual event or next year’s live festival.

“At this point, we’re changing how we do things. So, it’s going to be a lot of virtual planning right now. Not all of our committee and not everyone’s familiar with that, so I’m inviting others who are more familiar from a virtual capacity and know how to reach out to people on social media,” she said.

Those interested in helping may call her at 424-8459 or the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford at 422-3344.

One bright spot for Ms. Dorey is the fact that she will now have a year to plan the delayed 20th-anniversary festival, now set for Sept. 18, 2021.

“As difficult as this is, it’s just temporary, and if having to skip a year to keep our neighbors and our community healthy and safe, it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

“It will pass, and we will have a vaccine (next year) and be able to circulate it. But we will have something really phenomenal to celebrate our own freedom in 2021.

“As much as I love the festival, if even one person gets sick, it’s not worth it.”