Saratoga Springs

COVID-19 stripping back local summer traditions

A previous Saratoga Jazz festival
PHOTOGRAPHER:
A previous Saratoga Jazz festival

Categories: Life & Arts, News, Saratoga County

CAPITAL REGION — Summer in the greater Capital Region is starting to look quite different this year due to COVID-19. 

Two long-standing season traditions at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center were canceled on Monday: the 2020 Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival and the Dave Matthews Band performances. 


In the last few weeks, the 179th Saratoga County Fair was canceled (the first time since the U.S. Civil War); the Sembrich canceled its summer festival; the Old Songs Festival was canceled, and it’s looking like the Saratoga Race Course might be without spectators this season. 

All these changes have stripped down summer entertainment calendars, especially in Saratoga Springs, where thousands come out to SPAC each summer to enjoy events like the Jazz Festival. 

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Originally scheduled for June 27-28, the Saratoga Jazz Festival was slated to include performances by Nile Rodgers & CHIC, Kool & the Gang, Cassandra Wilson and several local artists. 

“After 42 consecutive years presenting one of the most exceptional jazz festivals in North America, to have to cancel the 2020 Festival is both heartbreaking and devastating,” said Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of SPAC. “The loss of this event as an exuberant gathering of jazz-lovers is deeply painful – and the economic impact to SPAC, the community, and the many artists who were to perform is incalculable.”

In the last few years, the event has gone well beyond SPAC’s grounds, with performances scheduled at nearly 30 other local venues on the Friday before the festival’s kick-off.

“The venues were in Wilton, Schuylerville, Malta, Round Lake and Saratoga Springs and the artists loved the extra income,” said Todd Shimkus, the president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. 

“It helped SPAC expand its program, inviting ticket holders to come a day earlier further extending their stays here. While this summer will clearly be difficult, the Saratoga County Chamber looks forward to working with SPAC on this program again in 2021.”

“It will no doubt have an impact on our community,” said Darryl Leggieri, president of Discover Saratoga. 

“The amazing music, energy and diversity that this festival brings every year will be sorely missed. It’s part of what makes Saratoga Springs a year-round cultural destination. We realize that this was a tough decision for our partners at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, but it was done to ensure the health and safety of the artists, ticket buyers, and the community.”

In place of the regularly scheduled festival, SPAC is teaming up with Caffe Lena to present the “Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions.” The series of live-streamed performances will run from June 27-28. It will be streamed from the Caffe’s stage, with groups of no more than three musicians so that safety guidelines will be followed, according to a statement from SPAC. 

So far, no digital alternative has been announced for the canceled Dave Matthews Band concerts, originally scheduled to perform July 10-11.

“We are disappointed to announce that in light of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we will be moving all of our 2020 summer dates to the summer of 2021,” the band posted on social media on Monday. “We make this decision with the health, safety, and well-being of our fans, touring crew, and venue staff as our priority.”

The band plans to perform at SPAC on July 9-10, 2021.

Throughout the last few weeks, several other Live Nation concerts have been canceled, including Dead & Company, Zac Brown Band, The Lumineers and Celtic Woman. As of Monday, only two out of the five originally scheduled June concerts are still running as scheduled, quieting the start of summer for many concert-goers.  

NOTE: For refunds to any Live Nation shows, visit livenation.com/refund. For refunds for the Jazz Festival, visit spac.org. SPAC will donate two tickets to first responders and local health care workers for performances during its 2021 season for every ticketholder of the 2020 Jazz Festival who chooses to convert all or a minimum of $25 of their ticket purchase into a donation.

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