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St. Anthony’s Italian Festival canceled this year as organizers in Wilmington give way to effort to limit spread of coronavirus

A statue of St. Patrick makes its way around the procession route during St. Anthony of Padua annual Festa Patronale procession on the last day of the Italian Festival, Sunday, June 19, 2016. Dialog photo/Don Blake

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed one of the most ballyhooed community events of the year in Wilmington as organizers of St. Anthony’s Italian Festival have decided to cancel this year’s celebration.

This year’s celebration of culture, food and fun was set for June 7-14. Organizers announced on the festival’s Facebook page that restrictions aimed at reducing the threat of the public health danger have already cut into preparation time and would make it not feasible to hold this year’s event.

“The impacts … are far-reaching, significant, and will be lasting,” according to the post on the festival page. “With the anticipated ongoing disruption of parish and community-wide activities over the next weeks and months, our peak season for festival planning and preparation has been severely impacted.

“This reality, coupled with uncertainty about when gatherings of any size will again be permitted, as well as the expected significant economic repercussions that will result from the current necessary restrictions on commerce and industry, has led St. Anthony’s to make the very difficult decision to cancel the 2020 Italian Festival. This is an unprecedented act, as the festival has never been cancelled in its almost 50-year history. However, these are circumstances we have never faced. This decision was made after considerable thought, discussion, and much prayerful reflection, and was made with the health and safety of our patrons, volunteers, and vendors as our primary concern.”

The website post said St. Anthony of Padua parish organizers are considering the possibility of a smaller scale Italian Festival in late September as an alternative. They said the idea is in its early stages.

The lack of festival revenue will have a significant impact on the St. Anthony parish elementary schools, which relies on contributions from the festival, according to the Facebook post.

“We are taking steps now to mitigate the impact of this loss of income and to adjust our parish expenditures as best we can to ensure the continued vitality of our ministries, especially the grade school, the primary beneficiary of funds raised by the festival. We know that we will need to focus on various additional fundraising opportunities to make up for the shortfall we will experience going forward. We thank you for your understanding, and for your ongoing support and patronage. We look forward to welcoming you back soon for the best in Italian food, fun, and culture right in the heart of Wilmington.

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