Two of Astoria’s biggest events, the Festival of Dark Arts and the FisherPoets Gathering, won’t be held as usual this February.
Fort George Brewery’s Festival of Dark Arts is postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus. The FisherPoets Gathering will still run Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, but the event will be held virtually.
“It’s something we’ve been humming and hawing over since the coronavirus hit. We went through scenarios including where we could do partially virtual, partially in-person, but in the end the whole experience of the festival is all about being there,” said Brian Bovenizer, Fort George’s marketing and sales director.
“Almost 3,000 people come together for this thing ... By current COVID guidelines, we couldn’t even have all the entertainers on the block. By doing something virtual, we felt we’d be creating an experience that isn’t Festival of Dark Arts.”
The festival won’t be held until 2022 at the earliest, even if virus restrictions are lifted during 2021, Bovenizer said. Fort George might host smaller “COVID-safe” events during the usual festival weekend for visitors who’ve already booked hotels.
“As we dust off the gathering planning machinery, it’s pretty clear that 2021 will need to be a virtual event after all,” Jon Broderick, a FisherPoets Gathering organizer, said in an email. “Your support and enthusiasm has been terrific encouragement to us all and as we figure out how to do this, we won’t forget that.”
Both events are known to bring thousands of visitors and locals together in February, a month when the North Coast starts to emerge from the winter slowdown in tourism.
“It’s heartbreaking for people around town to not have these beloved events brightening our winters as they usually do. That being said, with the uncertainty of the pandemic and the rise in case numbers, it makes sense that these events are being changed,” said Sarah Lu Heath, the executive director of the Astoria Downtown Historic District Association.
“From retailers to hotels, not having these two events in February is another hit to the bottom line after a really hard year,” she added. “I think these losses will be felt, but they weren’t unexpected.”
At the Festival of Dark Arts, patrons spend a day tasting stouts brewed by Fort George and other Pacific Northwest breweries, eating locally-made food and viewing an assortment of unique sights like contortionists, bands, artists and tattooists.
“Given the uncertainty of the pandemic and for everyone’s safety, the Festival of Dark Arts has been postponed until further notice,” the brewery announced.
At the FisherPoets Gathering, participants spend a weekend visiting different local venues to hear music, poetry and prose from performers with ties to the fishing industry.
In place of the Festival of Dark Arts, Fort George is launching a limited membership club, where patrons can get discounts and other perks. The club, titled Lovell Auto Co., will launch Nov. 27.
“In 1921, Sherman Lovell opened his automobile showroom in downtown Astoria, Oregon. A century later, the Lovell Auto Co. is open once again, this time as a limited-membership club,” reads the brewery’s announcement.
Club members will get access to online presales with discounts on bottled beer, discounts on merchandise, early access to purchase event tickets and access to members-only opportunities and merchandise. Club members will have first access to Fort George’s annual Matryoshka beer, which is usually released the day after Festival of Dark Arts.
The club’s cost and size capacity won’t be public until Nov. 27, Bovenizer said.