FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2020
CONTACT: Morgan Willett
OCALA CULINARY FESTIVAL POSTPONED DUE TO CORONAVIRUS CONCERNS
As the number of new COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases continue to grow across the country and with new cases being identified in Florida each day, so do concerns about the safety of large public events. Out of an abundance of caution, Ocala Culinary Festival organizers have decided to postpone the 2020 festival, scheduled for March 25-29, citing that the health and safety of participants and attendees is of primary importance to the organization every year, and even more so this year.
Morgan Willett, this year’s festival director, offered, “The decision to cancel the Ocala Culinary Festival was not made lightly and at great expense of both time and money to the festival. We expect that once the threat passes, we will regroup with new dates for rescheduling the festival. We will be reaching out to ticket holders to arrange for refunds.”
Four years ago, the Ocala Culinary Festival was created around two passions—the love of Ocala and the love of all things epicurean. The organizers originally modeled the Ocala Culinary Festival after other esteemed national culinary festivals that brought talent from all over the world, tourists to the area, and exposure to new flavors for Ocalans, that normally they would have to travel to find. And every year it has done just that, attracting international chefs, tourists from all over the U.S. and abroad, as well as nearly 1,000 happy diners each year.
With only two weeks until the slated dates for the festival, organizers had to weigh all the factors that made the festival model such a hit in past years. With culinary talent and tourists coming in from all over the world, these factors now pose a potential health risk to all, under the current threat of the coronavirus. Once the CDC identified a higher risk for older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease and issued warnings for events, culinary talent began to cancel and diners started asking for refunds. It became clear to organizers that it would be near impossible to move forward with the festival as scheduled.
Founder Jennifer Hunt Murty acknowledged that organizers were sad to make this announcement, but hoped that that the public will appreciate the fact that “We’ll continue to run this festival with the best interests of our community, attendees and the chefs, who generously offer their talents to make each year an unforgettable experience.”