The Janesville Chamber of Commerce wants residents to look on the bright side when it comes to the cancellation of Hay Daze, the city’s annual summer festival.
The three-day celebration, which closes a portion of North Main Street to make way for carnival games and rides, live music, and plenty of fair food and fun during the third weekend in June, will skip its 60th anniversary due to concerns over COVID-19.
The Hay Daze Committee felt it should cancel the celebration due to the uncertainty that comes with the COVID-19 pandemic. It was uncertain if the attendees would have to wear a mask, what the limit on numbers of people who can gather would be or how to keep everything sanitized properly. There were too many risks and the committee kept the attendees, staff and volunteers in mind when deciding to postpone until next year.
“It really was a heartbreaking decision,” Janesville Chamber President Laura Seys said of canceling Hay Daze. “We struggled with public health vs. the inherent need for people to be sociable. Now, more than ever, I feel people would have looked forward to it.”
Instead the 61st anniversary celebration of Hay Daze will have some additional events or specialities dedicated to the 60th year for a combined effort next summer.
Another factor in the decision of canceling the event was funding.
COVID-19 has kept some businesses closed completely while others have been at a limited capacity for the past two and a half months. The committee didn’t feel comfortable asking these businesses for money when it has not been able to be fully open or serving customers.
This money is generally used for sponsorships in the parade, a golf tournament, the beer garden and other events and for rental equipment.
Hay Daze is planned months in advance with new events added and dates of the events scheduled long before the celebration takes place.
“We were really excited this year mainly because it was our 60th year so we wanted to celebrate a little bit more and we spent more money on the bands; IV Play and Pop Rocks,” committee member Chuck Quast said. “We just invested more this year into that and that’s what we were looking forward to. …”
Planning for next year’s celebration has already begun. There were a few new additions, such as face painters, parade performers and a larger band for the street dance.
“All of the money we had down on events planned have been applied to next year’s event,” Seys said. “Everyone we worked with was amazing at allowing us to do this and we can’t thank them enough.”
Because Hay Daze always falls on Father’s Day weekend, the Chamber, on its Facebook page, encouraged residents to look forward to next year’s celebration.
“Please don’t look at this as a negative, but rather turn it into something positive,” read a post on its page. With so many of our fathers having to compete with Hay Daze for 59 years, please make this year extra special for them. Take this time to spend it with and make it the most memorable for your father, brother, son, husband or any other father figure in your life.”