As we enter the 2020 event and festival season here in South Carolina, event planners and communities are facing difficult decisions. The Coronavirus (Covoid-19) has now reached a worldwide pandemic and has already touched us here in the Palmetto State. Currently, there have been several cancellations of festivals or events in the Palmetto state, but the growing number of national and regional cancellations, including numerous SC Patrick’s Day festivals and parades, have put planners on alert. 

Guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and SC Department of Health and Environmental Control ( SCDHEC ) have been consistent in their message about mass gatherings. The CDC continues to “strongly encourage event organizers and staff to prepare for the possibility of outbreaks in their communities. Creating an emergency plan for mass gatherings and large community events can help protect you and the health of your event participants and local community.” Additionally, the International Festivals & Events Association ( IFEA ) has issued a statement with some guidance specific to our industry. What does this mean for the large events in our state and the smaller community events, many set to kick-off within days and over the coming months?

Duane Parrish, SC Parks, Recreation and Tourism Director, spoke at the 2019 SCFEA conference and offered guidance on Planning for the Best and Preparing for the Worst . In addition to this presentation, we suggest:

1)       Consider all of your event’s stakeholders.
It is important for festival and event planners to consider sponsors, vendors, performers, community organizations and departments, and of course, our festivalgoers, when making any major decisions about our events. 

2)       Be proactive and have a plan in place.
Having a written plan in place and be willing to update that plan based on the rapidly changing details is key.

3)       Have a seat at the table.
Event managers and staff should have a seat at the table for any discussions about cancelling, postponing or making any major changes to your event. If your community hasn’t already begun discussions, invite key officials to be at your table for discussions. Consult your city/town officials, local law enforcement and medical agencies, and follow the guidance of the SCDHEC and CDC.

4)       Be transparent and communicate.
Your plan should include a communication component and regularly update your stakeholders.

We are planners. We plan for all kinds of scenarios, and this pandemic is no different. SCFEA will continue to monitor this rapidly evolving case and share relevant information with our members and industry affiliates.