MANSFIELD — Downtown Mansfield Inc. has officially postponed the start of the 2020 Final Friday season.
The decision was announced on the Facebook page for The Brickyard on Monday evening, citing Gov. Mike DeWine's orders on mass gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year's concert series was originally scheduled to begin on May 29.
"(We) are very helpful to host concerts this season," the post stated. "We feel strongly that community is more important than ever and we miss you the most."
Downtown Mansfield Inc. CEO Jennifer Kime said postponing the season opening for May was an easy decision.
"We're not going to do something that's going to be risky for the community's health," she said.
Under an order penned jointly by Gov. DeWine and Dept. of Health Director Amy Acton on March 17, mass gatherings are prohibited in the state of Ohio.
"Mass gatherings are defined as any event or convening that brings together 50 or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time, such as an auditorium, stadium, arena, large conference room, meeting hall, or any other confined indoor or outdoor space," the order reads. "This would also include parades, fairs and festivals."
There are 26,646 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio and 1,504 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of May 18. A total of 4,998 people have been hospitalized, including 1,328 admissions to intensive care units.
Final Fridays began as a way to bring residents downtown on the final Friday of summer months. Crowds for the popular concert series have filled the Brickyard over the past few seasons; Kime said the turnout last year averaged about 5,000 people.
DMI will keep the season open for the rest of the year and announce decisions for each month on a rolling basis.
"The season goes through the end of September...this isn't an event that happens and then it's over, and as we've all been following this we know it changes often," Kime said. "We're trying to avoid making large, blanket decisions and then going back on them."
DMI has not released the performance schedule for the 2020 season, but Kime has kept in touch with the 15 musicians to update them on the latest developments. The schedule will be amended as the months progress.
"Like everyone else, we have a lot to think about - the community, the musicians, the businesses, and everybody's health to keep in mind," Kime said. "It all depends on what we can do to implement health and safety standards."
According to Kime, as part of DeWine's Responsible RestartOhio initiative, a task force on outdoor events has been assembled. Recommends from the task force are expected to be announced soon, which will help guide DMI's decision for the June Final Friday concert.
In the meantime, Kime and DMI have been in contact with organizations across the state about how to safely conduct outdoor events similar to Final Fridays. So far, no one has come up with a definite solution.
One thing is certain - if Final Friday concerts do happen this year, they'll likely operate differently than shows in the pre-pandemic era. But Kime is keeping the faith.
"We feel like it's important that there are things to look forward to," she said. "We need the celebration, we need the fun. So if we're able to do it in a safe way, we will."