The hype surrounding the upcoming bicentennial of Pleasantville in 2021 was already garnishing steam. However, the amount of anticipation for the historic occasion will likely become even stronger with the recent announcement that the 2020 Pleasantville Festival has been cancelled due to concerns stemming from COVID-19.
On Friday, April 3, the Pleasantville Festival Committee posted on the festival’s Facebook page (Pleasantville Community Festival) the tough decision that the committee had come to regarding the fate of the 2020 plans.
“With much regret, the Pleasantville Community Festival is sad to announce that the 2020 festival will be cancelled,” the post read. “It was a difficult decision to make, but we feel (it) is best for the safety of our community.”
Since the end of February, committee members were beginning to feel concerned about the threat COVID-19 posed. They did not meet in person, but conducted business over the phone to follow the social distancing guidelines, according to Festival President Ginny Mancastroppa. All involved in the decision-making process were stuck playing the waiting game to see if the COVID-19 concerns turned into the pandemic that it has become.
During that period, the health and safety of the community was the top priority for the committee. Mancastroppa listed it as the “major challenge” in trying to put on the festival this summer as planned for July 5-11.
“Just for overall health reasons for everybody, we didn’t want to take the chance that we would be endangering everybody,” Mancastroppa said. “You can’t very well have social distancing at a festival.”
Mancastroppa pointed out that the fundraising process was another major hurdle in putting on the festival this summer.
Before cancelling the entire festival, there were already a number of fundraising events there was scrapped due to COVID-19. Also, the Designer Purse Bingo scheduled for April 25 at the Pleasantville VFD has been pushed back to Oct. 17 and the proceeds will now support the 2021 festival.
Additionally, due to a majority of businesses being forced to temporary close down as being classified as non-essential by the state government, the committee wasn’t comfortable asking for donations from people who were currently out of work.
Those who have signed up as vendors for this year are being refunded, according to Mancastroppa. In regard to the program book, which is the top fundraiser for the festival, Mancastroppa is giving the option to those who have purchased advertising space in a letter that will soon be sent out.
“I’m in the process of putting a letter together now to ask them what they’d like to do with their money,” Mancastroppa said. “Each one of them can have the choice of having me send it back to them, which is not a problem, or to leave it with us toward next year.”
With 2021 now in the sights of anxious festival attendees, the bicentennial celebration is sure to bring some exciting new changes.
The festival committee already had reworked the schedule for this summer, according to Mancastroppa. The fish fry that normally takes place Tuesday night was slated to be conducted along side the car cruise-in on Wednesday night. Also, kids night was moved from Wednesday to Thursday night. The hope of the committee was to help festival goers enjoy more experiences at a time.
“We were all really looking forward to seeing how those changes were going to work and to get more activities in during one evening that would help support each group coming in,” Mancastroppa said.
Meanwhile, the tractor pull, royalty pageant, corn hole tournament, parade and fireworks were all events that were expected to see back for 2020.
Chair of the Bicentennial Committee Mary Long added that the bicentennial committee has special plans in development for the community’s 200th anniversary celebration.
In the works for 2021, according to Long, are pottery and lumberjack demos, house tours that would highlight the historical sights of Pleasantville, a scavenger hunt with a theme to be determined and memorabilia displays of old pictures and documents from Pleasantville’s past.
“We’ve been working with the festival committee to add some extra activities to help celebrate the bicentennial,” Long said. “We’re just getting started with the details, but we want to be able to have fun activities for families to highlight areas around town.”
Long also mentioned the struggle of planning due to social distancing protocols and the lack of knowing what the future holds.
“The challenge is not knowing when we’ll be able to get together to plan,” Long said. “We’ve had meetings via email, but it’s hard to do too much that way.”
When the calendar turns to the summer of 2021 and the plans have been executed by those in charge, the goal for many, including Mancastroppa, is to have a celebration to be proud of.
“I’d really like to see a nice celebration and Pleasantville being able to relax and enjoy the celebration,” Mancastroppa said.
Even though it may be tough for members of the community to wait it out another calendar year to celebrate the town near and dear to their hearts, the continued good health and safety of everyone will make it worth the wait.
“People are feeling bad about (the festival being cancelled), but we appreciate the understanding that they have,” Mancastroppa said. “It’s a serious time, and we appreciate the community and their support.”