NEW BRITAIN – The annual Little Poland Festival has officially been canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It is a big deal making the decision to cancel. We just didn’t think it would be safe for the public to have such a large event with so many people in one day when we’re still in a pandemic,” said Darek Barcikowski, festival chairman. “It was a difficult decision to make but it was the right one.”
Originally planned for May 31, with the onset of the pandemic, event organizers initially postponed the 2020 festival to July 26. But as the state’s reopening phases continue and watching other major fairs and festivals being canceled going into the summer and fall, Barcikowski said the event committee decided it would not be fair to keep changing dates on its vendors and sponsors.
“We thought if we changed the date again, it would be without any certainty that the festival will take place,” he said. “We get a lot of visitors, vendors and sponsors from out of state, so they need to figure out their plans ahead of time. By constantly changing dates, we’d lose our credibility with them, so we decided the cancelation is the best way to go.”
The annual event draws close to 40,000 visitors from near and far to the city’s Little Poland on Broad Street. It is New England’s largest Polish cultural festival and has become an annual tradition for the city and its residents.
Adrian Baron, president of the Polonia Business Association, released a statement and said hosting a festival of over 30,000 packed visitors just isn’t feasible.
“It was a decision we did not take lightly and included discussions with various state and local officials as well as federal CDC guidelines on mass gatherings,” he said, stating that while it was with a heavy heart having to make the announcement, he is proud that the festival has become such a large and important event for the Polish community.
“We love that it has become an annual tradition for families across the state. We love sharing Polish culture and celebrating the city of New Britain. We love that it brings the community together,” Baron said.
Keeping his eye on the silver lining, Barcikowski said because next year will be the festival’s 10th anniversary, it would be the best opportunity to come back big.
“We’re considering making it a two-day festival rather than just one. All of our vendors and sponsors who were committed this year have said they are absolutely on board for next year,” he said. “So we have something great to look forward to.”
Both leaders of the Polish community emphasized restaurants and businesses are still open for patrons on Broad Street and urged residents to continue supporting local businesses.
“Especially the restaurants. They’ve really been hit hard during the pandemic and with the loss of potential income from the festival, any help they can get will be appreciated,” Barcikowski said.
Mayor Erin Stewart echoed similar sentiments on the committee’s decision to cancel, stating that staying cautious remains vital to keep everyone safe and healthy.
“While we are disappointed the festival had to be canceled for this summer, we have to remember that until the pandemic subsides it’s simply not safe to have upwards of 40,000 people in one small area. I am sure it will be back and better than ever for next summer,” she said.
Contact Catherine Shen at firstname.lastname@example.org