‘It is a pretty devastating blow’: 41st Pig Out in the Park postponement leads to some disappointment

SPOKANE, Wash. – Say goodbye to the tacos, churros, cheese curds and Italian sausage sandwiches in Riverfront Park this summer. Pig Out in the Park announced the event’s postponement for the second year in a row.

Organizer Bill Burke doesn’t feel like it’s safe enough to keep it going as more and more people test positive for COVID-19 in the area.

“It’s a shame. It really is. I’m truly sorry to the community. If I could’ve done anything other, I would have. But, it became obvious,” he said.

Days ago, Burke told 4 News Now the event was still a go, but things have changed since then.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Hoopfest, Pig Out in the Park and the Spokane Co. Interstate Fair still a go despite COVID surge

Over the weekend, Burke said he saw how many people test positive because of the Watershed Festival at The Gorge Amphitheatre.

More than 200 people tested positive for the virus of the more than 20,000 people who attended. It ended up being about .08 percent of attendees, but Burke said he didn’t want to risk it for the normally 100,000 people who attend Pig Out in the Park over the six days.

“We don’t want that for our event. And, the combination of people coming in from the outside of Spokane and a lot of Spokane mixing together, it didn’t sound like it was going to be the best idea,” he said.

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Though he says it’s for a good reason, it’s still a loss for vendors like John Kennedy.

He usually has three different funnel cake and lemonade stands at Pig Out in the Park and has been operating there since the late 90s.

“As a vendor, we depend on Pig Out and events like Pig Out to make a living throughout the year. It is a pretty devastating blow,” Kennedy said.

With his three stands, he can make between $20,000 to $60,000 a year at Pig Out in the Park.

While it is a disappointment for Kennedy, he understands why it had to happen.

“We can’t change it. We can help change it,” he said referring to keeping transmission low. “We can work on it, but there’s just no sense in getting depressed and down about it. It is what it is. It’s unfortunate, but somehow we’ll deal with it.”

Kennedy’s stands were one of more than 90 food and market vendors set to be at the 41st Pig Out in the Park. Nearly 100 musicians and bands were scheduled to be there, too, and they were supposed to be all local.

Dario Ré, the lead singer of Heat Speak, which was supposed to perform at Pig Out in the Park, was sad his eight-person band couldn’t play.

“It’s grim for a lot of reasons. I think it’s reflective of kind of a bigger loss culturally, especially in a local sense. Pig Out in the Park is one of the biggest music festivals we have come down to the stretch to the end of summer. To have all these bands be kind of hyped up and then suddenly shut down is a pretty big blow,” he said.

He said Pig Out in the Park was supposed to set the tone for the rest of the summer. Because the big event was canceled, Ré said he felt he needed to cancel another show soon, too.

“Once I saw Pig Out canceled, it kind of became clear to me, ‘OK, a big outdoor set to be canceled, maybe we shouldn’t ask our fan base to buy tickets for an indoor show.’ I decided to pull that out and reschedule for December,” he said.

Regardless, the event is canceled for this year. Burke says they’ve actually had a lot of support for that decision.

“All of our sponsors said, ‘Hey, count on us for next year, we understand,'” Burke said. “I think we made the right decision and we’ll be back next year.”

Although Pig Out in the Park is canceled, both Hoopfest and the Spokane Co. Interstate Fair said they’re still going on. Burke says they made the decision to shut it down this year because Pig Out operates differently than the other two. He says they don’t have gated admission like the fair, and they can’t keep track of those participating like Hoopfest.

“Because we are first in line, people will key off of us. The public will key off of us. Whatever decision, whatever happens at Pig Out will affect all those other events, too,” Burke said.

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