GULF SHORES, Ala. (WKRG) — Organizers of the 49th Annual National Shrimp Festival said in a news release Thursday evening they have canceled the event over worry about ‘health risks.’
“After weighing many factors surrounding this 4-day event, it has been decided that the health risks to our volunteers in particular; but also vendors, citizens, and visitors are too great and the festival is being cancelled,” according to the release.
“This decision is an extremely difficult one, but safety is our top priority.”
The decision was made by the leadership of the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber and the Annual National Shrimp Festival Committee after consulting with event volunteers, health officials, the tourism bureau, and many business partners.
The release did not mention COVID-19 specifically, but the language was clear. This marks the second year in a row the event has been canceled for Coronavirus concerns.
“Several concerns entail our local hospitals ability to care for a large influx of new cases while at near capacity with existing patients,” reads the release. “Also, our volunteers’ prolonged multi-day exposure to many attendees while in an environment that is impossible to control crowd size with safe distancing of patrons.”
The release likened the decision to similar decisions made by Hangout Fest and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
“Our mission at the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber, and through the Gateway Initiative, is to support our business community by providing commerce opportunities and workforce solutions,” reads the release.
The release ended with a look to the future.
“The 2021 tourist season was a record breaking year and projections are strong for a busy fall. Our goal will be to work hard in making improvements to the festival in 2022, not only providing a quality experience but also to improve crowd monitoring and better controlled access.”