FLORENCE, Ore. -- The 2021 Rhododendron Festival has been suspended for the second year in a row.
The board of directors of the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce say there is no way to enforce social distancing and efficient proper sanitizing, even outdoors.
"OHA guidelines prohibit large gatherings and we must comply with these restrictions," said Bettina Hannigan, chamber president and CEO. "We are so saddened by another loss for this generational family tradition and its economic impact on Florence for a second year.”
The festival kicks off Florence's tourism season and makes the single largest impact on the city's economy. Around 1,900 people in Florence rely on tourism-based employment. Tourism also pumps about $147 million into the community each year.
“Safety really is our top priority and so we’re forced to hold off on promoting the level of tourism our community needs to survive," Hannigan said. "We are really chomping at the bit to get back up to speed, but it’s just not safe enough to do so yet."
According to Hannigan, ancillary events including the Rhody Run and the classic car show 'n' shine and cruise are not planned by the chamber so organizers of each event will need to choose how to proceed.
The 2021 Rhody Festival was scheduled May 12-16.