Delaware State Fair loses Sam Hunt, TobyMac and Hank Williams Jr. because of COVID-19
Headliners TobyMac, Sam Hunt, Tedeschi Trucks Band, I Love the 90’s Tour and Hank Williams Jr. have all been dropped from the 102nd Delaware State Fair due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The state fair, which announced these changes Wednesday, said this move was promoted by guidance it just received from the Delaware Division of Public Health on how to safely hold outdoor concerts and shows in Harrington later this summer.
In order to comply with COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the capacity of the M&T Bank Grandstand has been cut by more than 70% for each concert and up to 80% for wheel events like the demolition derby and monster truck show.
Dover festival is back: Firefly surprises with new fall dates for 2021
Tickets for the new lineup will go on sale at 10 a.m. April 21 at delawarestatefair.com.
Fans on the state fair’s Facebook page shared mixed reactions about the big acts that got dropped from the summer lineup.
“Soo crazy that it's being cancelled. We bought tickets with COVID restrictions,” one person wrote.
“This is ridiculous for an open air venue,” another said.
“So excited for live entertainment again!” one fan exclaimed.
“So happy that we can at least go!!” another wrote.
On Facebook, the Delaware State Fair stated it can’t guarantee it will be able to bring back the headliners being lost this summer for next year’s fair because each year is unique and you never know what an artist’s schedule is going to be.
Ticket refunds, plus pod seating this summer
The fair announced refunds are being made to all patrons who purchased tickets directly from the fair for the Roots and Boots show scheduled for June 12 in the Quillen Arena and all fairtime shows that were on sale until this week.
The state fair's Grandstand entertainment will be held July 22 to 31.
In a pre-COVID-19 year, the seating capacity at the Grandstand is 9,385. This year the fair won’t offer Pit or VIP Loft tickets.
The track area will feature 222 pods seating 888 ticket holders. Each pod will seat up to four people, and the pods will be socially distant from other pods. Track seats can be purchased only as a group of four seats.
Ticket buyers looking for two, four or six seats will have choices in the stadium bleacher and Grandstand areas. In the bleacher and Grandstand areas, every other row has been taken out of service, and two empty chairs must be preserved between ticket-buying parties.
“Fair leadership and management genuinely appreciate the advice we were able to receive from the Department of Public Health” General Manager Bill DiMondi said.
“Unfortunately, the six largest shows on sale until this week have to be cancelled because they were not compatible with the COVID-19-mandated, lowered capacity of only 2,500 sellable seats for each concert, and 1,500 seats for our wheel events," he added.
Is this a bad sign for Firefly?
The state fair's fight against COVID-19 restrictions has led some to wonder if that means the writing is on the wall for the Firefly Music Festival, which has been relatively quiet since March 29, when they announced plans to return to The Woodlands in Dover from Sept. 23 to 26.
The festival hasn't unveiled its lineup yet.
When asked about possible COVID-19 restrictions at Firefly, Nick Trentacost – marketing director for the Great Lakes region at AEG Presents – told Delaware Online/The News Journal on March 29 that "more information is forthcoming and will be publicly available on our website."
State officials said the Division of Public Health has been in communication with AEG.
"Event organizers are aware they will need a formal plan approval from the agency before the event takes place. We will continue to actively work with the organizers to ensure their plan meets all necessary health and safety requirements and the necessary mitigation and safety measures are in place," public health officials said.
At its height, Firefly attracted over 90,000 festivalgoers.
In March, Gov. John Carney signed the eighth revision to the COVID-19 emergency order, increasing outdoor gatherings to 150 people. More will be allowed with state health department approval.
Dr. Jennifer Horney, an epidemiology expert at the University of Delaware, weighed in on what COVID-19 requirements might look like at Firefly.
"The public health saying is that nothing is 100%, but we gain a little bit through each thing. … They could require people to be vaccinated. They could require people to answer a screening questionnaire. They could implement protocols on gathering size and the way that restrooms or showers operate,” Dr. Horney told The News Journal.
“I think we’ve learned so much about the various aspects of protection that we can do. I think there is no one-size-fits-all solutions for these kinds of things, but if each intervention is implemented, then you get to a low-risk event.”
Bonnaroo, held each summer in Manchester, Tennessee, is taking enhanced health and safety measures for guests, artists and employees, according to the festival's website. By attending that festival, attendees voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.
"According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and guests with underlying media conditions are especially vulnerable," per the Bonnaroo website.
There will be on-site security, emergency medical staff and crisis counselors available at the festival for 24 hours a day at Bonnaroo. "If you need any assistance, go to the nearest Medical Tent or ask any Bonnaroo staff member for assistance," as per the website.
Governors Ball on Randall's Island in New York also mentioned COVID-19 concerns on its website.
"This is a bit of a moving target right now, and we will be posting more information in the coming months," according to the festival's website. "We will be following the guidance of all city and state authorities to ensure as safe of an experience for all. Many more details to come!"
At this point it's too soon to say how COVID-19 will impact Firefly. We'll keep you updated as we learn new developments.
Here’s the state fair’s new 2021 lineup
The state fair lost a lot of power when it had to go of acts like TobyMac, Sam Hunt and Hank Williams Jr. But the festival is trying to salvage things with this new lineup:
- Monster Truck Show on Thursday, July 22
- Blippi, The Musical, a preschooler favorite with two show time options (3 and 6 p.m.) on Friday, July 23
- Lauren Alaina with Maddie & Tae on Saturday, July 24
- Demolition Derby presented by Taylor and Messick on Sunday, July 25
- Riley Green will headline on Monday, July 26
- Tracy Byrd and Jo Dee Messina on Tuesday, July 27
- HARDY with Jon Langston on Wednesday, July 28
- Harness Racing on Thursday, July 29
- Friday, July 30 is still open
- Contemporary Christian artists Zach Williams and Stephen Stanley presented by The Bridge will perform on Saturday, July 31.
Since programming for the state fair is up for grabs for July 30, one fan on social media is holding out hope that the event will bring in one of the headliners that was tapped to play Firefly last year, before it got canceled due to COVID-19.
“No rock show the 30th! Book someone awesome ... country or Billie Eilish! Please.”
The News Journal's Ryan Cormier and Brandon Holveck contributed to this report.
Andre Lamar is the features/lifestyle reporter. If you have an interesting story idea, email Andre Lamar at email@example.com