DelFest decision expected in early May

The Del McCoury Band, including Del McCoury, right, performs a soundcheck to open the 12th annual DelFest at the Allegany County Fairgrounds on Thursday, May 28, 2019. Organizers say a decision about the 2020 festival will be made in early May.

CUMBERLAND — DelFest organizers say a decision whether to hold the music festival will be made the first week of May.

Like many entertainment and sporting events scheduled for spring and summer across America, DelFest is facing the dilemma presented by the COVID-19 threat. The 13th annual event is scheduled May 21-24 at the Allegany County Fairgrounds and more than 30 bands are scheduled to appear.

Stan Strickland, president of Tampa, Florida-based Rainmaker Management, is the manager for Del McCoury and oversees DelFest. 

"At present, we remain hopeful that we will get the all clear for Memorial Day weekend, but we are developing contingency plans," he said recently via email. "We consider it a blessing that we do not have to make that decision until early May. For now, we are focusing on prayer for the affected and being responsible neighbors."

DelFest brings about 30,000 people into the community each year, making the four-day event the single largest tourist attraction annually in Allegany County.

During a Monday phone interview, Strickland said there's not enough information to make a decision.

"DelFest means a lot to the people of Allegany County economically and we don't take this decision lightly," he said.

Festivalgoers fill hotels and motels and use restaurants, supermarkets, shops, gas stations and convenience stores. This year's lineup includes Old Crowe Medicine Show, the Punch Brothers, Sam Bush and Billy Strings.

Although the musical entertainment portion of DelFest is four days, crews start arriving the week before to begin setup. In addition, the DelFest Academy, which offers music lessons to more than 200 students, begins the Sunday before the festival. 

"There is no possible way we would put our families, or any other families of the people of Allegany County and the fans in danger," Strickland said. 

The decision is complicated by the fluidity of the timeline in place for public gatherings.

On March 19, Gov. Larry Hogan announced a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people. Social distancing efforts have led to the cancellations of sporting events, concerts and church services.

"I think they are still holding out a little bit of hope," Barb Buehl, the local liaison for DelFest, said. "They are not looking to cancel. If anything they are looking for a reschedule. We are kind of on the cusp of it. The more it moves along it may not happen. Things don't seem to be slowing down."

Brandon Butler, Allegany County administrator, said the decision will ultimately involve input from Strickland.

"DelFest is an important part of Allegany County," Butler said. "I keep saying it is not every day that we end up on the pages of Rolling Stone. But, (postponement) is up to them. I've had a number of long conversations with Stan Strickland. I think logistically on their end they will have to work it out and if it works, fantastic.

"The DelFest folks are facing a decision. They are not only looking at the festival's interest and their bottomline but they are also concerned with the interest of their families and families of Allegany County and the folks who come to Allegany County for the event. That is the one thing that has drawn me to DelFest itself, is that it has always been a family affair and so they wouldn't want to put anyone at risk."

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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