Bethesda Row Arts Festival canceled this year

UPDATED: Bethesda Row Arts Festival canceled this year

Taste of Bethesda will happen, but not in traditional street festival format

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Taste of Bethesda will happen, but not in traditional street festival format

Photos by Andrew Schotz

The organizers of this year’s Bethesda Row Arts Festival have canceled the annual event, which was scheduled for Oct. 10 and 11.

The annual festival brings together arts and crafts from artists across the country.

A message on the festival’s website from Robert Deutsch, Jim Taglauer and and Jon Gann says this year’s event is being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While we are optimistic that pandemic will soon be behind us, there are enough unknowns that prevent us from confidently creating the successful, high quality show that artists and collectors are proud to be associated with,” the message said.

Another annual fall event, the Taste of Bethesda, will take another form this year, said Stephanie Coppula, a spokeswoman for the Bethesda Urban Partnership, which sponsors the event.

Coppula told Bethesda Beat on Wednesday that the annual street festival, in which attendees can sample food from area restaurants, typically draws 30,000 to 45,000 people. Because of health concerns related to COVID-19, this year’s event won’t be the traditional street festival.

“There will be some type of restaurant-focused event in early October, but we’re still working on those details right now,” she said.

Taste of Bethesda was held on Oct. 5 last year.

Gann, one of the Bethesda Row Arts Festival’s two directors, told Bethesda Beat in an interview on Wednesday that the organizers decided on Tuesday to cancel the event.

“We had been thinking about it for a while,” he said.

Organizers are planning on bringing the festival back next year.

Gann said many other art shows have been canceled this year because of the health crisis, and artists who would normally travel from one city to the next have had to “rethink what they’re doing this year.”

Another factor, Gann said, was the fact that there are currently tables and chairs set up on Woodmont Avenue for temporary expanded outdoor seating, which has no definite end date. The festival, he said, normally takes place with tents in the street.

“Because Woodmont Avenue is closed, the restaurant tables are where the artist tents would normally be, so there’s no room for us,” he said.

Gann said organizers thought about doing a smaller show this year, but ultimately decided not to, and that it “wouldn’t be the same level of quality.”

This year’s festival would have been the 23rd. He said the only other time it has been canceled was in 2002, when the event coincided with the D.C.-area sniper attacks.

Gann said last year the two-day event drew about 30,000 people.

“It’s very sad, not only for the artists. It’s sad for the community, who really loves this event. It’s sad. This was not an easy decision to make,” he said.

Robert Dyer first reported on the cancellation on Twitter.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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