As of Wednesday, the Community Environmental Council’s Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival has been postponed to July 10-12 at Alameda Park, according to the festival’s director Kathi King. While the event was originally scheduled for April 17-19, the CEC has decided postponement was the best choice at this time in light of recent public health concerns over COVID-19.
Although no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Santa Barbara County, the CEC’s decision followed a number of preventative measures rising across not just the immediate area, but throughout the world.
“This is something that we have been thinking about for a couple weeks now,” said Ms. King, who also serves as CEC’s Outreach and Education Director. “We were really only going to maybe temporarily postpone, but we really didn’t know until the last few days when everything coalesced and changed so quickly.
“Watching the (Santa Barbara) City Council meeting on Tuesday… following the CDC, all the international and national news. It just all felt like the next six to eight weeks are unpredictable, making it wise for us to find a new date.”
The council’s meeting reviewed emergency strategies should the rising pandemic reach Santa Barbara. Even the Santa Barbara Zoo released new information on its website Wednesday night to assure the public that proactive measures are already in place, including 17 new hand sanitizer stations.
But ultimately, other postponements are what pushed CEC to its tipping point.
“Coachella was the benchmark for us,” Ms. King said. “They’re operating under a similar time frame as us, so we were watching what they would do.”
Announced on Tuesday, the annual music festival, which was set to take place over two weekends from April 9 through April 19, will now take place the weekends of Oct. 9 and Oct. 16. This, along with UCSB’s decision to operate under remote instruction through the end of April, prompted CEC’s difficult choice.
“We realized that we may all need to just hunker down,” Ms. King said.
Apart from being one of the largest Earth Day celebrations on the West Coast, the 2020 festival marks the 50th anniversary of why it all began. A designation inspired by Santa Barbara’s environmental activism in response to the 1969 oil spill, Earth Day, as well as the CEC, has empowered the community to take rapid action on climate crises since 1970.
Yet knowing the weight of this year’s event didn’t make CEC’s decision any easier.
“We recognize the importance of our environmental movement, but we also want to follow public health guidelines and be responsible not only to what our community wants, but also what the community needs,” Ms. King said.
Apart from concerns for the community, making the move to July also gives the CEC time to ensure its many vendors and exhibitors will still be able to participate. Ms. King, however, is more concerned about volunteers.
“Most of our sponsors and participants are local, but volunteers could be something we have to take a closer look at,” she said. “We rely on college students quite a bit.
“In that case, we’ll be reaching out to corporate groups like Target or AppFolio who have community volunteerism built into their corporate model, just in case the students we need are not here in the summer.”
Still, despite the drawbacks, Ms. King thinks postponement may have a bright side.
“Earth Day is every day,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be in April. This might broaden the celebration out some.”
As for if anything will happen in April, the CEC will follow the community’s lead.
“We hope we can do something else, but who knows,” Ms. King said. “Maybe a month from now people will want to get together and find some sort of way to pop up, hang out and bump elbows. But it’s totally up in the air.”
All Ms. King knows is that whatever happens, Santa Barbara will be prepared.
“We’ve proven in the last two years that we are a very resilient community,” she said. “We want to honor that by rolling with the tide and still providing the community with this beloved event that everyone looks forward to every year.”
For more information on the coronavirus, you can now visit publichealthsbc.org or call 805-681-4373. To learn more about what measures the Santa Barbara Zoo has taken, stay up to date at https://www.sbzoo.org/about/coronavirus-info/.