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COVID-19 concerns cancel Edmonds Oktoberfest for second year in a row

The Edmonds Oktoberfest, which helps raise money for charities helping needy families, has been canceled once again causing concern for nonprofits.

EDMONDS, Wash. — For the second year in a row, Oktoberfest in Edmonds has been canceled. 

After seeing its main fundraiser canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Edmonds Rotary Club expected the 2021 event to be a big hit. But organizers decided to scrap Oktoberfest again because of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases fueled by the delta variant and people refusing to get vaccinated. 

"We just couldn't justify the safety risks for our volunteers and our community," said Edmonds Oktoberfest Founder and Committee Co-Chair David Kaufer.

Organizers plan to hold a similar event in 2022 and hope to make an announcement in January.

Oktoberfest's cancellation means the bands, the beer, and more importantly, the money raised by the event are all gone once again.

"We didn't think we'd be having this conversation," said Kaufer. "As late as a month ago we thought we could pull it off, but things just got too bad."

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The cancelation is costing the Edmonds Rotary Club at least $40,000 this year. That money would have gone to groups like Washington Kids in Transition, an organization that provides food, shelter and emergency services to about 700 low-income and homeless families every year.

The 5K associated with Oktoberfest is Washington Kids in Transition's biggest fundraiser. Now, 20% of the group’s income is gone and services for needy families are being scaled back to the bare basics. 

"We were sending kids on field trips to the zoo. We were partnering with the Edmonds Theater so kids could go to movies. That does hurt because I know how important that is," said Kim Gorney, the executive director for Washington Kids in Transition. "The social aspect for these kids is critical in helping them navigate their lives."

Funds raised by the Edmonds Rotary Club also provide scholarships to local students. But the Club is now being forced to dip into its reserves to make sure college scholarships can still be paid to deserving high school students.

"It's gonna have an impact," said Kaufer. "We're in the business of making money so we can give it away. Some of these service organizations can only last so long on reserves. We'll have to continue to depend on the goodwill of the community."

The trouble doesn't stop with Oktoberfest. Coronavirus concerns are threatening to cancel or delay other activities in the city as well.

The Edmonds Chamber of Commerce hosts the city's beloved Fourth of July parade and fireworks show, as well as annual fall holiday events. But pandemic restrictions have cut deeply into the chamber's fundraising this year.

Greg Urban, president of the Edmonds Chamber, said the annual Halloween trick-or-treat event and holiday tree lighting might not happen this year because of funding shortfalls and worries about the virus spreading.

"We are a small staff of three. Future cuts would most likely reduce our staff numbers and the events we produce. No plans have yet been made in this regard," said Urban.