FreshGrass festival at Mass MoCA canceled

Fans enjoy the music on Joe's Field during the 2017 FreshGrass festival. The 2020 festival, scheduled, for Sept. 25-27, has been canceled.

NORTH ADAMS— FreshGrass, an annual bluegrass and roots music festival at Mass MoCA each September, has canceled this year's event — the latest in a long line of cultural events in the Berkshires to be scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cancellation was announced in a Facebook post launched Wednesday morning. All ticket buyers have been notified, the post read.

The cancellation came as no surprise to local officials, who said they were saddened nonetheless to see another blow to the economy caused by the pandemic and efforts to protect the public health.

"The performing arts are essentially lost to us this summer," said Jonathan Butler, president and CEO of 1Berkshire, noting previous season-long cancellations at Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow and Shakespeare & Company. "But we are hoping to see some of our museums reopen in July to give us an opportunity to have some activity and keep some of our businesses going so we can get through 2020 and mitigate the long-term damage that will take us years to recover from."

He noted that cultural offerings during the summer draw more than $800 million in annual spending to the Berkshires during recent years.

FreshGrass 2020 was scheduled for Sept. 25-27. The lineup was never released; it had been expected to be announced around the same time the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but the event typically books about 50 artists — some local, some regional and some with national and international fame.

"For an event the scale of FreshGrass we had to make a decision earlier than you might for a smaller scale event because there are so any players and partners involved," said Jodi Joseph, spokeswoman for Mass MoCA. "So we had to make the definitive decision to cancel the event for the health and safety of our audience, artists and staff."

The FreshGrass festival by itself has been drawing roughly 6,000 music lovers to the museum campus every year for the three-day festival since it began in 2011, and for many visitors and locals, it had become an annual celebration of music and community.

For local businesses it was an annual injection of revenue that will be hard to replace.

"It has grown to become a great way to close out summer in the Berkshires," Joseph said. "There are people who bought tickets last September. What a heartbreak. So this is hard for everyone involved."

"This is one more challenge and one more bit of sad news on top of all the other bad news," said Thomas Bernard, mayor of North Adams. "I was really sorry to hear this."

He said September revenues for local businesses such as restaurant, hotels, and local shops will all be affected amid their efforts to reopen their businesses and regain their clientele in a safe manner.

"It's going to be a slow recovery," Bernard said.

FreshGrass 2021 is scheduled for Sept. 24-26.

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.