Calling off Germanfest’s 45th anniversary celebration was a bit of a somber moment for Muenster Chamber of Commerce Director Lilly Palmer.
“We really understand how much is at stake here for our community,” Palmer said Thursday, April 2. “We rely on this event. The effect it will have on everyone involved is unprecedented.”
The three-day festival is hosted by the chamber the last full weekend in April and drew 16,000-17,000 people last year, Palmer said.
While many large gatherings had been called off to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the Muenster chamber waited as long as possible to cancel its event, according to Palmer.
“[We were] holding out out of respect for everybody,” Palmer said. “We waited on the president and governor.”
On Sunday, March 29, President Donald Trump announced he would be extending the White House’s social distancing guidelines to April 30. Guidelines include no gatherings of more than 10 people and staying home as much as possible.
On Tuesday, March 31, Gov. Greg Abbott followed suit. Abbott’s order also requires schools to remain closed until May 4 and only essential businesses, such as groceries and health care, to stay open.
The seven-member chamber board unanimously agreed to cancel Germanfest during its regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday, April 1. Palmer said board members met via Zoom video conferencing and in house at the chamber office in Muenster.
This isn’t the first time in recent years the chamber has taken a hit. In 2017, low attendance due to forecast severe weather for Germanfest put the chamber about $50,000 in the red, according to a previous Register report. At the time, the chamber was uncertain whether it would be able to continue its two annual festivals celebrating the community’s German heritage. The chamber also hosts Oktoberfest in the fall.
It costs an estimated $180,000 to host Germanfest each year and profit is largely based on attendance, Palmer previously said.
Other streams of revenue came in to help during that time and the chamber was able to march on, according to Palmer.
Palmer said she is looking ahead and is hopeful that the chamber can host Oktoberfest later this year.
“I rely on Germanfest 100% to keep our chamber offices running,” Palmer said. “Let’s all work together by staying apart.”
Muenster City Administrator Stan Endres said it’s hard to say what kind of economic impact the cancellation of Germanfest will have on the community.
“In 45 years, we’ve never not had a Germanfest,” Endres said. “There have been a few rainouts, but there was usually at least one day of good weather which helped a little.”
He said the western Cooke County city will miss some sales tax revenue, adding to revenue already lost to business shutdowns.
“Regardless, the city and all of its businesses and citizen[s] will get by,” he said.