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Pungo Strawberry Festival canceled for 2nd straight year

A staple on the Virginia Beach event calendar, the festival decides not to proceed with too many unknowns ahead.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Pungo Strawberry Festival doesn't happen until May, but on Tuesday the festival's chairman announced that there would be no event for the second straight year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The festival also had been canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19.

Chairman Todd Jones said the organization took a hit last year when it had to cancel the event at the last minute. The team responsible for staging the event hoped to make 2021 particularly memorable.

"We frontload a lot of the expenses... we're not ready to write big checks for a festival we're not sure that we can have, the exact dollar amount I don't have in front of me, it is a pretty good amount," Jones said. "For those reasons, we couldn't risk losing that money again."

Jones said he and the team couldn't put people at risk of catching COVID-19 or start planning to hold the three-day event and take another loss with an 11th-hour cancellation.

"It is challenging enough just to hold Board meetings and planning sessions while complying with Executive Orders," Jones wrote when announcing the cancellation. "We cannot confidently proceed with the 2021 festival. We do not want to bring large crowds together unless we feel certain it is in a safe and healthy manner, even outdoors."

Jones said the climate as it stands today would not support bringing 40 or 50,000 people together, even in an outdoor setting. He lamented the fact that the event will not be able to give out its customary charitable donations, citing that as a reason they did not go forward with a smaller festival. 

"If we're gonna do all this work and then break even, and then we don't have anything to give out in the way of donations or scholarships, well then we just threw a party," said Jones. 

Even a party that all of Virginia Beach looks forward to, and will now be looking forward to for another year.