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Saturday in the Park postponed; Bernstein says chances it will go on at all are '50-50'
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Saturday in the Park postponed; Bernstein says chances it will go on at all are '50-50'

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2019 Saturday in the Park

Snow tha Product got the audience going in the Abe Stage in this 2019 Journal file photo. 

SIOUX CITY -- The 30th annual Saturday in the Park music festival has been postponed to an indeterminate date in the future, possibly toward the end of the summer or the early part of the fall.

"Tentatively, in our minds right now, we're looking at some dates in either late August, or more realistically into September," Dave Bernstein, the festival's co-founder and longtime leader, said in a Zoom press conference Thursday afternoon. The decision was prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The festival was previously scheduled to go on at Grandview Park July 4.

Bernstein acknowledged that Saturday in the Park may not happen at all this year. If it were cancelled, it would join other cultural events that fell victim to the pandemic, including the summer concerts at the Hard Rock's Battery Park venue and this season's remaining performances of the Sioux City Symphony Orchestra

"We need to be realistic, I think, with everyone -- the chances of us still being able to pull it off in the fall, are not guaranteed, certainly," Bernstein added. "50-50, it's hard to say." 

Organizers more than a month ago had already acknowledged the possibility of a postponement. 

The health of concertgoers has always been a concern. Sioux City Fire Rescue crews are on hand every year to deal with heat stress (often the result of excessive exposure to the July sun, compounded by drinking) and the usually minor scrapes and bruises that attendees sometimes sustain. 

2015 Saturday in the Park

Aretha Franklin performs during Saturday in the Park at Grandview Park July 4, 2015.

But the virus proved to be a far more grave threat to the health of the thousands of people who swarm Grandview Park every summer. 

"We're just not going to risk it, we can't risk it, it's just not something we're willing to do," Bernstein said of the decision not to hold the festival in July. 

The event, invariably held on the Saturday closest to July 4, began back in 1991 and has since mushroomed into a cultural icon for Sioux City. 

In previous years, the festival has attracted big-name acts like Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Santana, Cee Lo Green, George Thorogood and Boz Scaggs; crowds are usually estimated at 20,000 to 25,000. 

Besides the blockbuster singers at the main stage, lesser-known acts make appearances at the Abe Stage, so called because of its proximity to the park's statue of Abraham Lincoln. Crowds at the Abe Stage are packed together quite closely, and even the staid old Lincoln statue gets a lot more human contact than normal -- he's been seen festooned with colorful attire in previous years. 

If the festival does finally proceed later this year, there is another problem: lining up acts. A lot of groups aren't touring right now, which was one factor contributing to the postponement decision. Saturday in the Park organizers now have a little more time to sort out that matter. 

"Clearly, people (who are) cancelling entire tours aren't going to come play Saturday in the Park, even at a delayed date," Bernstein said. 

2019 Saturday in the Park

Silvia Flores of Sioux City picks up the umbrella with her son Lee Flores, 11, during Saturday in the Park at Grandview Park in Sioux City on July 6, 2019.  

"It'd be all great if we even could have the festival, but if you don't have bands, artists, clearly to perform at the festival, there's no point," he added. 

Bernstein acknowledged the possibility of holding some sort of alternative-format Saturday in the Park -- a virtual version, perhaps, or holding an in-person event but at a different venue that might allow for better social distancing. 

He said he's not completely on board with either of these ideas: "I would suggest, as someone who consumes a lot of virtual experiences that they're not quite the same, not even close to the same." But Bernstein also noted that the festival probably won't be in its usual form either. 

"The festival, if are able to have it this year, it will probably look a bit different than it has in the past," he said. 

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