The 15th annual Cream Cheese Festival in Lowville last year. Watertown Daily Times

LOWVILLE — Organizers for the village’s Cream Cheese Festival announced Tuesday that the annual event has been canceled this year due to COVID-19.

The event was originally slated to take place in the village on Saturday, Sept. 19.

The move comes amid the pandemic and the current inability to host events with 25 or more people due to restrictions put in place by the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Festival chairman Jeremiah S. Papineau said in a release Tuesday morning that the decision was a difficult one.

“This has been a conversation among our committee members over the past several weeks and was really put under the microscope following the cancellation of the Lewis County Fair,” Mr. Papineau said.

The Lewis County Fair, which was to celebrate its 200th year in July, was canceled May 6. In the weeks that followed, the St. Lawrence County Fair and Jefferson County Fair were also canceled. Most recently, the Adirondack Balloon Festival in Glens Falls, which was set to be held the week after the Cream Cheese Festival, and the Ogdensburg Seaway Festival, set to be held in July, were also canceled. Both events draw thousands of people — much like the Cream Cheese Festival, which draws an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people each year — and their cancellations played into the decision to press pause on this year’s Cream Cheese Festival, Mr. Papineau said.

“When we learned of the Adirondack Balloon Festival canceling last week, it was the first event we had heard about that late in the year that was canceled and when we learned of the Ogdensburg Seaway Festival canceling, we found a big decision that played into that was a state requirement for vendors and volunteers to be COVID tested at an astronomical cost to that festival’s committee,” he said.

One of that festival’s chairpersons, he said, was quoted as saying the cost of testing 100 of their volunteers alone would be $35,000 — a figure that does not include testing vendors he confirmed upon contacting her.

“If a festival of their size can’t justify paying that cost for a more than week-long

event, we certainly can’t justify that for our one-day festival,” he added.

Mr. Papineau also learned those attending the Ogdensburg festival would have to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms, personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand sanitizing station would have to be readily available and social distancing would have to be enforced — all measures the Cream Cheese Festival would most likely have to comply with even in September.

He further stated answers to questions about liability are also unclear in the event someone were to contract COVID-19 and succumb to the virus or transmit it to someone who then passed it on to someone else and that person passed away.

“Even if we were 100 percent in the clear when it comes to liability, if we lost even one person to this virus because our desire to host a fun event overrode our desire to do the responsible thing, that’s one life too many and something I couldn’t personally live with,” he said.

Mr. Papineau said some may question the decision to cancel this year’s event — let alone canceling it three months in advance — but anyone who’s ever organized a large-scale event, he said, knows there is “a lot of work that goes into one and there are many people’s schedules to work with.”

Despite the cancellation of this year’s festival, Mr. Papineau and Kristen F.W. Aucter, executive director of the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Cream Cheese Festival’s planning committee, said they and the rest of the festival’s planning committee are looking forward to the event’s return next year.

“This isn’t goodbye. It’s simply see you next year,” Mr. Papineau said. “We can’t wait to get back together next September.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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