Coronavirus impact: Apocalypse now? Rob Zombie, others, not at Musikfest 2020
The Zombie apocalypse is not exactly upon us, but Musikfest is the latest, and biggest, Lehigh Valley arts and entertainment event to succumb to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
And it’s not only because Rob Zombie won’t be in Bethlehem Aug. 2 to headline a Wind Creek Steel Stage concert Musikfest.
Officials of ArtsQuest, which presents the 10-day music and food extravaganza that attracts an estimated 1 million to the south side, downtown and historic industrial area of Bethlehem, announced that the entire Wind Creek Steel Stage lineup is postponed with one exception, which is a cancellation.
Musikfest. July 31 - Aug. 9, joins other Valley and national events to go virtual.
According to a June 10 virtual press conference, more than 80 performers and 30 partners wil join with ArtsQuest “to keep the music alive and free for the community during Musikfest 2020.”
“Virtual Musikfest” will stream 40 concerts live on Musikfest.org. Also, 40 concerts will be broadcast live from Service Electric TV studios.
Food and beverage stands will be set up during Musikfest at SteelStacks with a minimum of 10 Musikfest food vendors.
“So many people have been asking about the status of Musikfest 2020 over the past several weeks, and for that we are so appreciative,” said Kassie Hilgert, President & CEO of ArtsQuest, the nonprofit that presents Musikfest.
“The reality, however, is that the focus since mid-March needed to be on the pandemic and those working on the front lines,” Hilgert said.
“The health of everyone, including our patrons, performers, artists, volunteers, vendors and staff, has always been and will continue to be our number-one concern in all of this,” said Hilgert.
The 2020 Musikfest Wind Creek Steel Stage concerts were Rob Zombie, Aug. 2; Shinedown, Aug. 4; Willie Nelson and Family, Aug. 5; Kelsea Ballerini, Aug. 6; Poison, Aug. 7, and Darius Rucker, Aug. 8.
The July 31 Wind Creek Steel Stage concert of The National, scheduled to open the 37th annual Musikfest, is canceled.
The Wind Creek Steel Stage concert by Darius Rucker concert is rescheduled for Aug. 7, 2021.
The Wind Creek Steel Stage concert by Kelsea Ballerini concert is rescheduled for Aug. 12, 2021.
ArtsQuest officials said at the press conference that they are working with artists’ management to reschedule Wind Creek Steel Stage concerts by Willie Nelson, Poison, Rob Zombie and Shinedown for next year’s Musikfest.
Ticketholders are asked by Musikfest officials to retain their tickets for Wind Creek Steel Stage concerts until new dates are confirmed and announced.
Wind Creek Steel Stage tickets will be honored at 2021 concert dates. An email will be sent to a ticket purchaser once a new date has been established for a concert.
If a new date can’t be established, ArtsQuest will send an email outlining patrons’ options on what they can request for their ticket purchase, including an option for those who want to support Musikfest by donating the cost of their tickets back to the nonprofit ArtsQuest.
ArtsQuest will contact ticket purchasers for The National concert via an email outlining ticketholders’ options.
According to ArtsQuest officials, “As the region moves through the state’s reopening process, ArtsQuest will continue to announce programming updates and changes weekly, including possible additional in-person events and concerts at SteelStacks.”
Said Hilgert, “During this time of crisis, we feel it is particularly important to keep our community connected through music and the arts, as well as to support our local musicians, artists and vendors, the vast majority of whom are reeling since this pandemic has decimated the live music and events industry.
“We are working closely with the City of Bethlehem on Musikfest 2020 planning and we will look to add in-person elements on the SteelStacks campus at the appropriate time, following all safe social distancing guidelines and health and safety regulations enacted by the city and the state.
“While we can’t yet predict or announce what those in-person events might look like, rest assured they will be reflective of the traditions and celebrations people have come to cherish about Musikfest.”
Musikfest, the only music festival to be twice named the No. 1 Music Festival in North America by the USA Today-10Best readers’ poll, is the largest free admission music festival in the United States, typically featuring more than 425 artists and performers on 17 stages.
Among concerts confirmed as part of “Virtual Musikfest” are KT Tunstall, Igor & The Red Elvises, Betcha, The Accidentals, Mike Mains & the Branches, Hollis Brown, Making Movies, and Craig Thatcher & Nyke Van Wyk.
Additional performers are expected to be announced by Musikfest officials.
The Service Electric TV2 Studios along Avenue A, Bethlehem, are being converted for use as a Musikfest stage and for concerts by singer-songwriters, rock acts and popular Musikfest acts.
Artists slated to perform and air live from Service Electric include The Sofa Kings, Philadelphia Funk Authority, Jimmy & the Parrots, Boat House Row, The Large Flowerheads, and Fritz’s Polka Band.
“The live music and events industry, like so many other industries, has been hit hard by this crisis,” said ArtsQuest Chief Programming Officer Patrick Brogan.
“A big part of ArtsQuest’s mission over the years has been providing paid performance opportunities for artists to support their livelihood, and we are looking to continue that tradition this year with these virtual performances and live-via-TV concerts connecting artists and fans.”
During Musikfest 2020, food and beverages will be sold at a to-be-determined location at SteelStacks, with at least 10 Musikfest food vendors expected to participate. More than 45 food vendors annually take part in Musikfest.
Onsite foods and beverages, which will include Yuengling and Banko Beverage brands, will be offered following the state and city health and safety regulations that will be in place at the time of Musikfest. Participating vendors and foods will be announced later this summer.
Other programs being planned for Musikfest 2020 include:
• The return of the Musikfest App powered by PNC Bank, featuring a photo scavenger hunt and more.
• A virtual Musikfest 5K launching in July, with proceeds supporting Musikfest
• The Handwerkplatz presented by Martin Guitar online retail shopping portal to support local artisans.
• Musikfest 2020 Public Art Project where the community can download or pick up a postcard at the Banana Factory and create artwork sharing their thoughts and feelings about Musikfest and the community. Details on how to participate in the art project and return the postcards will be announced June 15 at www.musikfest.org.
From mid-July through the end of Musikfest, ArtsQuest will share stories by local celebrities, performers, artists, vendors, volunteers and community members who have played a role in Musikfest via Musikfest social media, Musikfest website and other platforms.
In addition, the community will be invited to share Musikfest photos for a virtual photo exhibition, with details to be announced.
The festival provides opportunities for more than 425 artists and performers and 125 local and regional small businesses to support their livelihood via performances, food stands, artisan booths and more.
Approximately 65 percent of artists each year are from the Lehigh Valley and surrounding Mid-Atlantic Region and 70 percent of vendors are from the Lehigh Valley and surrounding region.
The festival and its patrons had an economic impact of $77 million on the Lehigh Valley in 2019.
“Since its humble beginnings in the mid-80s, Musikfest has brought millions of people to Bethlehem to enjoy music, food and crafts,” said Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez.
“Up until now the threat of inclement weather was the only challenge that could jeopardize the success of the event. Who would have ever thought that a global pandemic would force such dramatic changes to a Bethlehem staple? But, as they say, ‘The show must go on.’
“Although Musikfest is taking on a whole new form, its goal is still the same, to bring us together. For over three decades ArtsQuest has given us free music. It is my hope our community will support ArtsQuest, including the performers, artists, vendors and small businesses in any capacity possible,” Donchez said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted virtually every aspect of the nation and economy.
Musikest joins the parade of pandemic postponements and cancellations in the Lehigh Valley region that includes the Kutztown Folk Festival; Levitt Pavilion concerts at SteelStacks, Tunes at Twilight, Godfrey Daniels concerts, 17th annual SouthSide Film Festival; 113th Bethlehem Bach Festival, and Pennsylvania Playhouse plays, all Bethlehem; Civic Theatre of Allentown plays and films, Pride Fest, Blues Brews & Barbecue Festival, Mayfair, Baum School of Art auction, Miller Symphony Hall, 40th Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, all Allentown; Northampton Community College Summer Theatre; 29th Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival; 18th Freddy Awards, and Bucks County Playhouse summer theater season.
More than 30 sponsors are helping ArtsQuest present this year’s festival and its programming.
The support of businesses and contributions of ArtsQuest’s 3,300 supporting members, made the difference between ArtsQuest being able to offer Musikfest this year or having to cancel the festival entirely for 2020, according ArtsQuest officials.
“With few exceptions, this pandemic has affected every, single aspect of our economy and our business community, from larger corporations to countless small businesses,” said ArtsQuest Chief Operating Officer Curt Mosel.
“Over the past three months, our staff has had hundreds of conversations with our partners and supporters. Many of these have been incredibly uplifting, as you might expect during a time of crisis, while others have been scary as we’ve learned about how hard our business community, especially the smaller businesses, have been rocked by this pandemic.
“There is no way we can truly express how much we appreciate the support of the partners who have been able to still back us and our community this year,” Mosel said.
“At the same time, our hearts and thoughts go out to those businesses that have been decimated by the COVID-19 related restrictions and shutdowns.
“As a community-focused organization, ArtsQuest will do what we can to support as many of our small business partners as possible,” Mosel said.
As a nonprofit arts and cultural organization that offers 50 percent of its programs annually for free, ArtsQuest has been especially hit hard by the COVID-19 related shutdowns.
In a typical year, ArtsQuest presents 4,000-plus programs and events, including 800 free concerts year-round.
In mid-March, the ArtsQuest staff went from planning a busy summer schedule to not being able to offer a single piece of programming, losing 90 percent of its revenue stream.
“ArtsQuest started in 1984 with a single event, Musikfest, during a time when thousands of Bethlehem Steel workers were being laid off and Bethlehem’s residents and downtown business community needed a major boost,” Hilgert said.
“For more than 35 years, we have been focused on bringing our community together through music and arts, while at the same time helping to support our city and region from the economic development, community revitalization and tourism perspectives.
“Our Musikfest patrons usually support the festival by attending concerts, purchasing food and beverages and buying a mug. This year, however, we will be asking everyone to support Musikfest in a very different way,” said Hilgert.
“This week, we’re launching the ‘Together, We Will Fest Again’ campaign, inviting the community to help us via donations and contributions that will go directly to support the 2020 festival, local artists and the return of Musikfest in 2021.
“More than anything, this crisis has highlighted how vulnerable nonprofit, events-based organizations truly are. Our goal is to come out of these challenging times strong so we can present 36 more Musikfests to support our city and region. The community’s support this year can play a huge role in that.”
Musikfest fans and community members who want to help ArtsQuest and Musikfest prepare for when everyone can get back together in person safely can do so by:
- Making donations to support Musikfest at www.musikfest.org/together. There are “Together, We Will Fest Again” options for people to give based on ability, with special “Thank Yous” for donations at different levels including a limited-run, special-edition “Virtual Musikfest” 2020 collector’s mug.
- Becoming an ArtsQuest Member for virtual and in-person benefits, including the purchase of tickets for Musikfest and SteelStacks concerts before the public.
- Entering the “Virtual Musikfest: 5K starting in July.
- Ordering from SteelStacks Curbside Pickup to Go Service, featuring Musikfest food vendors.
Musikfest is made possible by the support of the City of Bethlehem, Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority, Bethlehem Area School District, Northampton County, the corporate community and more than 1,600 volunteers and 3,300 supporting members.
Musikfest 2021 dates are Aug. 6-15.