Local events pivot after city revokes permits for large gatherings

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Several local organizations are scrambling to make changes to upcoming events after Mayor Van Johnson announced the city is pulling permits.

The Savannah Jazz Festival is a 40 year tradition in the Hostess City. During that time, organizers have embodied the phrase “the show must go on” — even in a pandemic.

“We were prepared for this eventuality. You know, we were hoping for best and planning for the worst,” said Savannah Jazz Festival Director Paula Fogarty.

She planned on a return to live concerts with thousands of people in Forsyth Park this year, but there was always another plan.

“We will hold the events at Savannah Station, and we will have food trucks there; we’ll have full beverage services,” but on a much smaller scale says Fogarty.

The shows at Savannah Station will have small in-person audiences picked in a raffle. All scheduled concerts will be live streamed for everyone else.

Fogarty says the lack of the festival’s usual large crowd means refunding money to vendors and more.

“I would say that the biggest impact is going to be to the city of Savannah itself,” she said. “Our festival generates over $1.5 million of revenue for the city of Savannah, so the city really stands to lose the most.”

The Savannah Philharmonic also won’t be returning to Forsyth when it launches its 2021-22 season on Oct. 9.

“We are actively building contingency plans, and we look forward to announcing to the community what we are doing on Sept. 1,” says Philharmonic Executive Director Amy Williams.

She says they already learned how to navigate COVID restrictions last year.

“We were one of the few organizations in the country that maintained performances with socially distanced audiences,” Williams explained, “and were able to continue our mission.”

Williams says the Philharmonic’s new COVID plans will do just that.

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