The Winston-Dillard Melon Festival, a tradition in Douglas County for more than 50 years, joined the long list of events canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A post on the festival’s Facebook page announced the cancellation Monday.
Large gatherings in Oregon have been banned since early May when Gov. Kate Brown ordered festivals, fairs, concerts and sporting events should be modified or canceled through at least the end of September.
One-by-one, community events were canceled throughout Douglas County, including Music On The Half Shell, Douglas County Fair and others.
Melon Festival President Clay Caldwell says it’s nearly impossible to enforce social distancing at an event like this.
“Social distancing would be extremely hard at our event. It’s a festival, nobody’s going to stay 6 feet away. It’s just not going to happen,” Caldwell said. “Try to picture the Douglas County Fair and social distancing that and that’s what we’re like. We’re not the fair, we’re not that big but we are in a small venue where it would be just about as tight. People wouldn’t just be elbow-to-elbow, but almost belly-to-back.”
Another factor behind the decision was finances. Usually, the Winston-Dillard Area Festival Association, which organizes the Winston Summer Nite Cruise, the Winston-Dillard Melon Festival and the Winston Tree Lighting, has hosted vendor booths at a variety of events throughout the year to raise money. Because so many events have been canceled, the association hasn’t been able to raise any money for either the melon festival or the tree lighting.
Caldwell said the board was also worried about being fined.
“We were aware that restaurants and other places that went against the governor’s rules were fined up to like $14,000.
“A $14,000 fine would kill a little nonprofit like us. It would be devastating,” he said.
Originally, the festival was scheduled for Sept. 18-20 at Riverbend Park in Winston. Traditional events have included live entertainment, a parade, melon eating contests, car show and more.
The cancellation has not affected the raffle for a Craftsman T100 riding lawn mower, valued at almost $1,300. Tickets for the raffle are $2 each or 3 for $5, and can be purchased by contacting an association member through the Winston-Dillard Melon Festival Facebook page or calling Caldwell at 541-530-7862.