‘It’ll Be Like a Homecoming’: Lancaster Festival Executive Director on Event’s Return July 23 – July 31

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After taking a hiatus from in person events in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lancaster Festival is back. The 10-day arts festival will kick off with an ArtWalk Friday, July 23, and culminate with a performance from Don Felder (formerly of The Eagles) on July 31, with dozens of events, performances, and opportunities for community togetherness in between.

Lancaster Festival
The official poster for the 2021 Lancaster Festival. (Submitted)

Lancaster Festival Executive Director Deb Connell said that despite the many challenges 2020 presented, the Festival was still able to preserve their mission of bringing the arts into the community by presenting a series of virtual art classes aimed at children and several virtual concerts last year. The down time that the pandemic presented the Festival also allowed them to make several significant upgrades, including a needed technological upgrade in the Festival’s office and the installation of a new concrete pad (courtesy of Thompson Concrete) for the Festival’s concert stage area.

In addition to these improvements, Connell said that 2020 also allowed for a sort of reinvigoration of the festival’s mission, which centers on the importance of the arts.

“Over this past year, we have learned that we may not be able to talk to each other about some topics. We may not be always be able to agree on politics, or race, or the economy; but when you’re talking about a musical performance or an artistic display — everybody interprets those in their own language, in their own understanding, and it brings us all together,” she said. “All of those things that divide us file a fall away when we’re focused on the arts.”

Connell said the 2021 Lancaster Festival will feature entirely outdoors performances at the Wendel Concert Stage at Ohio University Lancaster — featuring six performances in that space as opposed to the typical three. In order to decrease crowds waiting on admission to scheduled performances, the gates for live music events will not open until 6:30 p.m., and on the festival’s tribute act night (2021 features the Dancing Dream ABBA Tribute Show Wednesday, July 28) tables will be available for reservation prior to the performance. Additionally, limited tickets will be available for all six of the 2021 Lancaster Festival live music performances – an opportunity Connell said those who wish to ensure that they can attend any of the concerts takes advantage of.

The poster for the 2020 Lancaster Festival, which was cancelled due to COVID-19. (Submitted)

“If anybody wants tickets, I would say try to get them earlier rather than later. We do have a strong possibility of selling out for both Saturday night performances and our Wednesday night performance,” she said.

Connell said that although there will be some palpable difference throughout the 2021 Lancaster Festival as compared to prior years due to lingering COVID-19 precautions, for the most part, attendees won’t experience much of a difference.

“We want everybody to feel comfortable and be safe and know that we are restarting the festival in the safest way possible. While we still will have guidelines to help everybody keep safe and we will be responsible at the concert sites — we just can’t wait to be together again,” said Connell. “For all of us, no matter where you are, we have been having to avoid gathering together for quite some time now – and gathering together, having that community feel, that brings us so much joy. The fact that we have figured out how to do this safely and together at the same time, I think it’s extremely meaningful to all of us. I just cannot wait to be out there in that crowd of everybody. I think it’ll be the first time that a lot of people have seen their friends face to face in over a year. And that’ll be fantastic. It’ll be like a homecoming.”

Listen to more of WOUB Culture’s conversation with Connell, embedded above, and check out the full schedule of 2021 Lancaster Festival events right here