Event organizers look back on tough year and look forward to making a comeback

Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 9:45 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Over the last 12 months, events were canceled left and right as the COVID-19 pandemic led health officials to recommend people stay home and keep distance from one another. Some event organizers look to make a comeback in 2021 but for many, the impacts of COVID-19 remain strong.

“We were the first to close and we will be the last to open,” notes Country Jam USA general manager Kathy Wright of the concert industry.

Wright and her staff are planning to host the music festival this summer after it was canceled in 2020.

“We want to give everyone this experience, we want to gather again and we are working with our local authorities to do that safely,” she says.

Country Jam USA has survived with the help of grants and funding. Wright says she is hopeful to get more funding from the recently passed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.

In Chippewa Falls, Executive Director of the Northern Wisconsin State Fair, Rusty Volk, says it has been challenging to get the funding he needs. He too is hoping to get some funds from the COVID-19 relief bill in order to make up for money lost after canceling the 2020 fair.

“We have had a slow year, we are going to be ok but we could really use some financial assistance in the form of grants that many other businesses have already received,” Volk says.

Volk and his staff are moving forward with plans to hold a fair in July and currently hiring staff and volunteers.

While this year could look more normal for events like Country Jam USA and the fair, other annual events like the Eau Claire Jazz Festival will continue online instead.

“Our two main focuses are to provide educational opportunities for students and provide world class entertainment and we are able to do that in a virtual way this year,” says Quentin Volk, executive director of the Eau Claire Jazz Festival.

Volk says the non-profit event held in April can bring in up to 5,000 people.

“Putting on an in person festivals would not be in anyone’s best interest,” Volk says after canceling 2020′s festival, he and his team have also been able to receive grants and funding to stay afloat.

Online or on-site, the event organizers look forward to bringing live entertainment back to the Chippewa Valley and doing it safely.

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