The Old Hilliardfest Art & Street Fair is the latest annual event to be canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Hilliard Civic Association announced Aug. 25 that the annual event cannot be held after learning from Franklin County Public Health it is considered a festival and thus not permitted under the state’s guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, said Robert Vance, secretary of the civic association and public-relations coordinator for Old Hilliardfest.

“We fully intended to stage Old Hilliardfest up until last week,” Vance said.

Old Hilliardfest had been scheduled Sept. 12.

The street fair is not a city-sponsored event, said David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard, but parts of Main, Center and Norwich streets are closed to allow vendors to set up on the street.

Launched in 1985 as Old Hilliard Day by a handful of Old Hilliard business owners, the festival has changed names, organizers and even its site over the years.

It also was canceled in 2018 because of heavy rain on the event weekend. 

Vance said volunteers invested hundreds of hours on changes allowing the event to take place in 2020, including the elimination of two entertainment stages, reducing the number of vendors by half and scaling back other activities to achieve required social-distancing guidelines.

“The city cooperated with us at every turn,” Vance said. “There was no reason for us to believe we could not go forward with it.”

Vance noted that farmers markets, the Hilliard Arts Council’s summer concert series and Hilliard’s DORA events were held over the summer.

“(Franklin County Public Health) told (Hilliard Recreation and Parks Department director) Ed Merritt they consider Old Hilliardfest a fair or festival, which is still not permitted in Franklin County,” Ball said.

Festival organizers also faced the challenge of a nonprofit organization paying for the signs and pavement markings that would have been required for the event to take place, Vance said.

“We had hoped we could do this as a fun and safe way to close what has been a challenging summer,” he said. “We are disappointed.”

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