Peach Blossom Festival cancels event for the first time in 62 years

Last year over 5,000 elementary school students gathered around in the annual Peach Blossom Festival at Fresno State on Thursday, March 14, 2019. Courtesy of: Peach Blossom Website

The Peach Blossom festival was canceled two days before it was supposed to occur. The festival was originally scheduled for Thursday, March 12, and Friday, March 13. 

The Peach Blossom Festival is a literary and poetry festival directed at elementary school kids that draws thousands of school children from across the Central Valley to the Fresno State campus each year

According to the festival’s website, Fresno State’s department of communications canceled the event in order to maintain a safe environment at our school amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, and are complying with the CDC’s “evolving guidelines.” 

“The safety and well-being of our campus community is our highest priority, as is maintaining a safe environment for those who visit our campus,” said the festival’s website. 

A statement released by Dr. Kevin J. Macy-Ayotte, chair of the department of communication, said, “Given that many people are concerned about attending large gatherings right now, we felt it was prudent to cancel the event.”

This statement also complies with guidelines set by the CSU Chancellor’s Office. 

According to the statement, events at this time are being evaluated by the school on a, “case by case basis.” 

Christina Wells, director of the festival, said nothing like this has happened in the festival’s 62-year history, and because of the festival’s size, it will not be postponed or rescheduled for later this year.

The festival is Fresno State’s longest running program and took a yearlong commitment and hard work of 35 students, alongside Wells and the other director, Elise Barba to put on. 

This year’s team of 35 was the largest team they’ve had, and Fresno State students were expected to run nearly every aspect of the festival.

Wells said they start reserving spaces for the next festival the week after the previous one ends. Interviews of students who want to be a part of the team start in the fall semester. 

The festival often takes over two-thirds of Fresno State’s campus for the festival.

“As you can imagine, for all of the people, the student staff working the event, the thirty five people working, myself and the other director, Elise Barba, our entire communication department, we’re devastated that this has had to occur, but we understand why,” she said.

The event is fully run by students, and this year “It’s kind of like being in a race, and then you get there, and you can’t cross the finish line,” said Barba. 

According to Wells, the cancelation of the Peach Blossom Festival is significant due to the size of the event. It is not exclusive to Fresno State. “[The fact that] it’s really impacted the general public is a big aspect of that.” 

Nearly 5,000 students from across the Valley have been practicing for months for the festival, which the goal of is to provide a service to the students in the Central Valley and give them the chance to experience our university, to see kids grow and have confidence. 

“It’s devastating we can’t continue the legacy this year,” Wells said.

Planning for next year’s festival begins over the next few weeks. It’s possible that because of this year’s cancelation, the general public will show more interest in next year’s festival and be invested in knowing what happens, said Wells. 

As for the students who helped plan this year’s festival, she said,  “I would imagine that those same students, if they have not graduated, would want to come back to ensure that next year goes off without a hitch. There’s a large investment that each student has with their time and energy, and into the festival.”

However, a contingency plan for future festivals, if something like this year’s coronavirus cancelation were to occur again, would be difficult. 

Festival coordinators would have to reserve all of the rooms at the times they need on two separate dates, but for future festivals, an emergency backup plan is something that might have to be considered, said Wells.

Next year’s festival is scheduled for Thursday, March 11 and Friday, March 12 of 2021. 

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