TGROVE CITY — The 2020 Strawberry Days festival, scheduled in five weeks, is canceled.

“I held on until the last minute,” said Mary Kay Mattocks, lead organizer.

She announced cancellation of the annual event, scheduled for June 12 to 14, Saturday with a post on the event’s Facebook page, where folks expressed their disappointment but said they understood that it was because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on May 1 announced the state’s most recent restrictions and guidelines, which include gatherings of no more than 25 people starting May 8, the planning committee knew that it was time to make a decision.

“It just left us no choice,” Mattocks said.

Strawberry Days, which attracts an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people over a three day period, joins a long list of regional events erased from the summer calendar. Organizers canceled Sharon WaterFire’ July celebration, the mid-June Shenango Valley Father’s Day Car Show, Mercer County Grange Fair in July and September’s Slippery Rock VillageFest.

Mattocks said it would be difficult to maintain social distancing rules at Grove City Memorial Park, where Strawberry Days is held each year, even if the state relaxes rules surrounding large gatherings. 

This year, which would have been the 30th Strawberry Days Festival, marks the first time the event has been canceled, Mattocks said. The event relies heavily on donations, and with a lot of people out of work right now, organizers did not feel comfortable asking community members for financial support.

Vendors who have already paid their fees will receive refunds.

Mattocks said about 50 crafters have registered, and half of the food tent — which is always filled with 20 nonprofit organizations — was booked.

Strawberry Days has also included live music, children’s activities, animals, and fresh-picked strawberries.

It’s a lot of work to host the event, and things are still uncertain as far as COVID-19 restrictions go, she said.

“We’ll plan for a bigger and better Strawberry Days,” Mattocks said of 2021.

Mattocks said the annual fireworks display sponsored by Grove City Borough and Pine Township is still set for the Fourth of July in Grove City. But spectators will not be allowed to sit at the high school football field this year. Residents can watch from home or in parked vehicles.

She said promises it will be the biggest fireworks show the two municipalities have had.

“That is at least something for people to look forward to,” she said.

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