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Newport Folk Festival canceled, a victim of COVID-19

Wednesday, April 29, 2020 – The Newport Folk Festival, one of the premiere musical festivals, is cancelled this summer due to COVID-19, organizers announced today.

At the same time, they also canceled the Newport Jazz Festival, which takes place the following weekend.

Organizers indicated the festivals will be held in some form - presumably virtually - this summer. The folk festival was slated for July 31-Aug. 2 and the jazz fest Aug. 7-9.

This year's guests would have included Randy Newman, Brittany Howard, The National, Sharon Van Etten, Phoebe Bridgers and Big Thief.

"With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to evolve unpredictably and in accordance with state guidance on large gatherings, we are deeply saddened to announce that both the 2020 Newport Folk and Newport Jazz Festivals will be cancelled this summer," said Executive Producer Jay Sweet. "Together with our local leaders and Governor Gina Raimondo, we have concluded that at this time we risk too much in having a gathering of our size."

"As devastating as it is to write these words, it's balanced with a renewed sense of, well, HOPE," said Sweet. "It's Rhode Island's motto for good reason, and it's also the feeling our festival family, constantly exudes when we come together in good times and perhaps more importantly, in difficult times as well. This community is truly unlike any other in music, and I believe we can emerge from this adversity stronger and more connected than ever before."

The impact of this cancellation will be "felt deeply" throughout the community as Newport Festivals Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)3, relies on the money it makes each year at the festivals in order to carry out its work, a press release said. The foundation has been able to support music programs in our own backyard of Newport and all across America, including remote communities in Alaska, donated instruments to schools in Puerto Rico that were decimated after Hurricane Maria and brought jazz education to schools that have no music programs due to funding cuts.

The foundation also created the Newport Festivals Musician Relief Fund last month to help mitigate financial hardship for musicians with over six figures in donations to date.

All ticket holders have the option of a 100-percent full refund if desired. Other options include:
1) an opportunity to donate all or a portion of their ticket to go directly towards ensuring the festivals for 2021 while continuing the foundation's support for artists and educators
2) applying their refund towards a 2021 Revival Membership - a new and one-time offer we've created specifically to ensure the future of the festivals and provides these members with three-day tickets to the 2021 festival (remaining memberships will be offered to the general public directly after the refund period)

"We encourage those who don't have tickets to consider making a tax-deductible donation (newportfestivals.org/donate)," the press release said. "Help us continue the festivals, support year-round music education initiatives, and provide grants to artists in need."

Created by George Wein (now 94) in 1954 and 1959 respectively, The Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals are some of the longest running music festivals. Newport Jazz has been home to legendary performances by Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, and Herbie Hancock while Newport Folk has witnessed, co-founder Pete Seeger, Johnny Cash and, of course, Bob Dylan. The festivals are known for their once-in-a-lifetime collaborations and and unannounced surprise performances. Last year's included Dolly Parton, Jim James, James Taylor and Kermit The Frog.

"Although we won't be able to gather at the Fort this summer, rest assured we have invited ALL the announced artists to join us next year," says Sweet. "In the meantime, we promise we will all commune one way or another on our festival weekend. As always, we have some secret surprises in store as well, so stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks. Until then, be present, be kind, be open, be together and stay strong."

The jazz fest line-up included Wynton Marsalis, Robert Glasper, Jimmy Cliff, Khruangbhin, Makaya McCraven and Norah Jones.

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