“I hope I’m wrong,” Martha Frankel said about her decision to cancel the Woodstock Bookfest. “I hope in two weeks people think I’m a complete schmuck. That would be okay with me. I don’t want to be right about this. I just didn’t want to take a chance on anyone’s health.”
Frankel explained that after watching and waiting for a nail-minifying amount of time — speaking daily with Woodstock Town Supervisor Bill McKenna and trading texts with County Executive Pat Ryan — she woke up at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, March 10, and decided to pull the plug on the beloved local literary event, which drew 1250 readers and writers last year. A few hours later, as if to confirm her decision, the Ulster County Department of Health and Mental Health requested that organizers notify them of any events occurring between March 9 and May 31, 2020, where total attendance or participation is expected to be more than 100 individuals.
Frankel estimated that this year’s event would have brought in around 2000 people, with draws like The New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast and writer Adam Gopnik, New York Times bestseller Elizabeth Lesser, and a free and open to the public panel “Power Over Powerlessness: Authors on Recovery.” She added that Chast, Gopnik, and many of the other panelists have committed to coming in 2021.
While the County is not recommending or requiring the cancellation of most large events at this time, it is issuing guidance, including that of encouraging organizers of indoor events to “find ways to give people more physical space so that they aren’t in close contact.” Frankel said that counsel was vital in making her decision. “The Bookfest is an interior thing where there’s not a lot of room.”
Frankel emphasized that sponsors have been “amazing,” telling her to use their money to support next year’s event. Similarly, she is offering 2020 ticket-holders the option of a refund or applying the face value of their tickets to Woodstock Bookfest 2021 events. More information can be found on https://woodstockbookfest.com/.