In a move that seemed merely a formality at this point, Bumbershoot organizers announced Tuesday that the long-running festival will not take place this year, due to COVID-19 concerns.
The decision was made after the city of Seattle Special Events Committee voted to not issue any special events permits through Sept. 7, organizer One Reel said in a news release. The annual Labor Day weekend music and arts bash plans to return in 2021 for what would be its 50th anniversary.
“As excited as we were to see Bumbershoot return to its roots in 2020, under the circumstances, this is without a doubt the right thing to do. We are relieved that the City of Seattle agrees,” Marty Griswold, One Reel’s executive director, said in the release. “We may now turn our full attention toward what comes next for Bumbershoot and how we can commemorate next year’s landmark festival.”
The Bumbershoot announcement officially clears the Seattle area’s summer festival calendar, following last week’s news that dubstep-leaning EDM fest Bass Canyon, at the Gorge Amphitheatre, has also been pushed to next year. 2020 looked to be a turning point for Bumbershoot, one of Seattle music’s most beloved traditions, after its contract with lead producer AEG expired. One of the concert industry’s top promoters, AEG helmed and shouldered the financial weight for Bumbershoot the past five years, helping to keep the ailing festival from going under.
Following AEG’s departure, One Reel — the nonprofit arts organization that’s been involved with Bumbershoot since the festival’s early days — slides back into the driver’s seat after taking a smaller role in running the festival during AEG’s tenure. One Reel has pledged to revive the festival’s earlier days, after the AEG years attracted younger crowds and saw ticket prices rise as North America became increasingly saturated with music festivals.
In some ways, the COVID-forced cancellation could be a blessing in disguise for Bumbershoot, giving organizers more time to plot the cherished festival’s future at a critical juncture in its history.