The 26th annual Virginia Festival of the Book, originally scheduled for March 18-22 in Charlottesville, has been canceled following concerns and a University-issued warning about COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. In a statement issued March 10 and posted on the Festival website, the Festival staff stated the reasoning for the decision.
“We are committed to prioritizing and protecting the wellbeing of our community as well as visiting speakers and attendees,” the announcement read.
The statement, which was also shared on the Festival’s Twitter and Facebook page, also noted that there has yet to be a confirmed case of coronavirus in Charlottesville or the surrounding area, although there are eight presumptive cases in Virginia according to the Virginia Department of Health. Following the advice of the March 8 statement issued by the University to limit non-essential travel, which included a request for community members to consider similar limits, the Festival has made the decision to cancel. The University is a major sponsor of the Festival.
The Virginia Festival of the Book sees upwards of twenty thousand attendees from all over the country and the world stay in Charlottesville and the surrounding area for a days-long celebration of books, authors and reading in general. The Festival staff had been monitoring the situation, as they updated their website blog March 4 to communicate information regarding the virus and assurances about heeding federal and regional warnings.
The 2020 Festival will not be rescheduled. The statement also acknowledged the cancellation costs speakers and attendees may experience and asked attendees to “consider purchasing books (from local booksellers) by authors whose programs you were hoping to attend.”
The statement ends with a note about the unfortunate circumstances of the cancellation.
“We appreciate your understanding and ongoing support,” the statement read, “though we know this decision holds a good deal of disappointment for us all.”
The Festival staff said they are working on the implications of the cancellation and will continue to update the Festival website with further information.