For the first time in 50 years, the St. Anthony’s Italian Festival will not take place in Wilmington. Organizers announced this afternoon on Facebook that they have canceled this year’s event, which was to take place June 7 – 14 on the grounds of St. Anthony’s church.
A plan is under discussion for a smaller-scale Italian Festival in September.
But with school likely in place by then, the festival wouldn’t reach the same major crowds – 60,000 to 70,000 attendees – the flagship summer festival sees each year.
Blue-Gold Football Game, Flower Market also canceled; Plans for Greek Festival ‘up in the air’
Organizers also announced this afternoon that the 65th Annual DFRC Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game and all related activities have been canceled. The event was scheduled for Friday, June 21st. For 65 years, DFRC has run the hugely popular summer event, which features match-ups among the best high school football players across the state.
All-star football game proceeds benefit DFRC, which provides much-needed services for children, young adults, and citizens of all ages with intellectual disABILITIES.
On their Facebook page today, organizers said, “To our Hand-in-Hand buddies, we celebrate you for your ABILITIES and the life-lessons you teach us. To our football players, ambassadors, cheerleaders, and band members, we congratulate you for being chosen to represent your school in the 2020 DFRC Blue-Gold All★Star Football Program and Game.”
A representative of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church says they are waiting until mid-April to make any decision about canceling or postponing the Greek Festival. The week-long event, filled with food, music, dancing and culture, is scheduled to take place June 1 – 6.
Another pillar of the spring season, the Wilmington Flower Market, has also had to fold up its tent. The Mother’s Day weekend festival, scheduled for May 7 – May 9, usually kicks off the summer season. And this year the Wilmington Flower Market celebrates its milestone centennial. Flower Market organizers are also planning to offer a smaller fall fest with an autumnal theme while keeping the focus of activities on children.
Italian Festival has never been canceled
Never in its decades-long history has the Italian Festival been canceled. Despite countless days mother nature forced the temporary closure of the seven-day Italian Festival, never in its decades-long history has it been canceled altogether.
But in their message to parishioners and event followers, organizers said the growing threat of the coronavirus pandemic posed too significant a challenge for them to proceed with plans for this year’s event.
Organizers said the decision was made after “considerable thought, discussion and much prayerful reflection.”
Canceling the fair meant months of planning were scratched, but it will also mean significant lost revenue for the parish and the community it serves.
“It’s really a year-round planning process. We start planning the day after the last meals are served at the festival.” said Anthony Albence, a parish trustee. “It’s certainly a highlight of the summer season and very disappointing to us all. Many people see folks who they may not see the rest of the year at the festival.”
Funds from the event are used as operating expenses for the grade school and parish. Parish leaders say they except a shortfall because of the cancellation. “It’s unquestionably the largest fundraiser for the parish and an essential fundraiser for the school,” said Albence.
“We’re going to look at how to replace the funds. And it probably will entail multiple strategies – more than one activity to address this loss of revenue,” said Albence.
While the school does charge tuition, Albence says the church must now find ways to ensure they can satisfy enrollment requests. “We want to provide an education to anyone who wants it. Our goal would be to continue the assistance we provide many of our students.”