The Roots N Blues Festival, one of Columbia’s premier events, will not take place this year.
Organizers promise, however, that they have lined up most of the artists for the canceled music showcase for 2021.
The three-day show, originally set for Oct. 2-4 at Stephens Lake Park, was canceled because the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic means there is no certainty that it will be safe for large numbers of people to gather, organizers said.
"The exact timing for when it will become safe for us to operate still remains unclear," co-owners Shay Jasper, Tracy Lane and Jamie Varvaro said in a joint statement. "Today, we have reached the conclusion that it is in the best interest of our staff, volunteers, artists, crews and patrons that we postpone the Roots N Blues Festival to 2021."
The festival, which would have been presented for the 14th time this year, began in 2007 with stages set up downtown. This would have been its eighth year at Stephens Lake Park, where it moved in 2013.
After the True/False Film Fest ended in March, COVID-19 caused arts presenters to cancel most of Columbia’s cultural calendar or recreate their events online. Roots N Blues held out, hoping the pandemic would cool enough to allow musicians to travel and fans to gather.
This year’s edition of Roots N Blues had promised an unprecedented experience. Responding to unequal gender representation in the live-music industry, organizers said each of this year’s festival slots would include a woman, either as a featured artist or member of a collective. The fest subsequently announced headliners Sheryl Crow, Brandi Carlile, Mavis Staples and Brittany Howard; the full lineup had yet to be revealed.
In Wednesday’s announcement, organizers noted "we have successfully retained 95% of our planned 2020 lineup for 2021 and are hopeful that the remaining artists will confirm soon."
The announcement did not mention specific artists, and organizers promised additional lineup details as the summer progresses.
Passes already purchased will be honored next fall, "and no action is needed on your part," organizers said. Updates on the festival’s annual 5K, 10K and half marathon races, named in honor of late organizer Betsy Farris, are to come.
While most major American music festivals have canceled or postponed this year’s proceedings, Jasper, Lane and Varvaro concluded their announcement by highlighting what’s different about this turn of events.
"The Roots N Blues festival is unique to the industry, as it is not owned by a larger entity," they wrote. "Instead, it is owned by three middle-class Missourians who recognize the importance of community and what live music contributes to the human experience. Despite a global pandemic, we continue to uphold these values."