Sister Bay Cancels 2020 Fall Festival

For the first time in 75 years, there will be no Fall Festival in Sister Bay come October. 

The Sister Bay Parks and Properties Committee voted unanimously Monday to cancel festivals and events on village property through the end of the year. Village President Dave Lienau cited the rising number of cases of COVID-19 – and what’s being projected for the fall – in proposing the cancellation.  

The Sister Bay Advancement Association (SBAA) released a statement announcing the cancellation, saying it was deeply saddened by the need to cancel, but that it is the right call, given the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state of Wisconsin about minimizing large gatherings.

“This decision comes only after exhaustive deliberation and consultation with business leaders, the Door County Public Health Department, Village of Sister Bay and other municipalities,” the SBAA statement said. “Fall Fest attracts tens of thousands of revelers to downtown Sister Bay each October, and we have concluded that at this time, we risk too much in having a gathering of our size.”

During a July meeting of local business owners to discuss Fall Festival, no business owners spoke in favor of holding the festival this year. 

SBAA coordinator Louise Howson said she knows how much Fall Festival traditions mean to residents and visitors, so she said she’s already planning to make next year’s 75th-anniversary celebration “the best you’ve ever seen.”

During Monday’s meeting, village trustee and Husby’s co-owner Chad Kodanko did implore the village to consider accommodations to help business owners grapple with the large crowds that are anticipated this fall even without events such as Fall Festival. 

“Businesses like ours are going to be really challenged this fall when the weather gets bad,” Kodanko said. “I wouldn’t put totally aside the idea of allowing businesses to have tents outside in inclement weather.”

Restaurants in Door County have been somewhat relieved this summer by uncommonly warm, sunny weather throughout the season, allowing operations to continue with spacing outside instead of packing customers inside. When temperatures cool and winds pick up this fall, Kodanko said tents and heaters would help businesses to continue to operate safely and not have to turn away crowds. 

Drew Bickford of On Deck Clothing Company echoed Kodanko’s concerns and suggested the village may want to add porta-johns to increase public-restroom capacity this fall. 

“I have an endless stream of people in the store looking for restrooms all day long,” Bickford said. 

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