DERRY — A longstanding tradition in town may take on a different look this year.

The annual Derryfest celebration originally planned for Sept. 19, is now canceled as a live festival due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the celebration will go on, “reimagined” and with virtual twist, according to organizers. 

At a recent Derryfest committee meeting, it was decided to hold a a “reimagined” or virtual Derryfest for this year due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

The Greater Derry Arts Council struggled with the moral dilemma of potentially putting fellow citizens in harms way by holding the annual festival as usual this year. Ultimately, they made the difficult decision to cancel the live and in-person Derryfest in MacGregor Park this September.

But the Arts Council is hoping to devise a virtual community outreach event in order to keep the tradition of Derryfest alive in the minds of citizens and, also, present a fun and entertaining alternative production for the citizens of Greater Derry.

Derryfest is the Greater Derry Arts Council’s biggest fundraising event of the year and the committee hopes to incorporate some kind of financial appeal to the community during the virtual event. Funds raised by the Arts Council go to support the arts in the community as well as to the operation, management and continued upkeep of the Derry Opera House located inside the historic Adams Memorial Building in downtown Derry.

Guidelines recently handed down from the state regarding fairs and festivals outlined significant safeguarding actions that would have been necessary in order to insure the safety of all attendees, volunteers, performers, entertainers, booth vendors and food preparers.

Face masks, sanitizers, disinfectants and other safeguarding processes (like taking people’s temperatures) would have been required.

In an open air park with no main entrance, this would have problematic, committee members stated. Most notably, only half the usual amount of booths would have been allowed to be sold as per the guidelines.

One other idea is to hold the annual “Greater Derry’s Got Talent” show online. Contestants can upload audition files to the production team and those files could possibly be used during the virtual show.

The idea of a virtual Derryfest was suggested by Owen Provencher, Derry Community Access media coordinator for the town of Derry, with ideas including live discussion “cut aways” to encourage donations, interviews with sponsors and presenting pre-recorded short performances from some of the regular Derryfest performers.

Anyone with ideas can email the Derryfest committee at info@derryfest.org. Visit derryfest.org, derryarts.org or derryoperahouse.com for additional information.

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