COVID-19 Forces Cancellation
of 2020 Ribberfest, Chautauqua

In yet another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic, VisitMadison Inc. on July 30 announced it had canceled both the Madison Ribberfest and Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art for 2020. The normally two-day event of blues and barbecue cooking contests had already been scaled back to a one-day event on Saturday, Aug. 22, featuring regional musical acts.
In a press release announcing the decision, tourism officials said the decision was not made lightly. Katie Burress, event coordinator for both festivals, said of canceling Ribberfest, “Our committee has remained very hopeful throughout the last few months that we would be able to have our event this year, albeit a bit differently than usual. Now that we are almost to August, and seeing that our local, statewide and national positive COVID-19 cases are on the rise, we believe that it is in the best interest of our volunteers, patrons and our entire community to cancel our event this year.”
Visit Madison Inc. Board of Tourism President Cara Fox added, “It is unfortunate that we are having to make exceptionally difficult decisions this year. We have all been faced with impossible decisions throughout the last few months, and sadly, canceling Ribberfest this year is the best choice for us at this time.”
Festivalgoers who purchased 2020 wristbands can expect to receive a refund. Please see the Ribberfest website or social media for more information.
Meantime, the Ribberfest committee still planned to move forward with its concrete pig decorating contest that supports the annual Madison Ribberfest Scholarship program. Pigs were displayed in August around town in front of the participating businesses, and the public was invited to vote on the “People’s Choice Award.”
As for the Chautauqua cancellation, which had been set for Sept. 26-27, committee President Kara Hinze said in a release, “With the current COVID-19 pandemic and the statewide restrictions associated with it, we cannot feasibly have the festival this year. The health and safety of festival-goers, artists, vendors and volunteers is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 festival for this September. Our committee members will be contacting artists, concessionaires, sponsors and others in the coming days to discuss next steps. We now set our sights on to looking forward to the 2021 festival.”
The committee had been eager to hold what would have been the 50th year of the festival. The event annually attracts about 40,000 people over two days to Madison.
“An anniversary as significant as this cannot be overlooked,” said Chautauqua Entertainment Coordinator Joe Devito in the release. “When we host the festival in 2021, it will still be the 50th one, so we will be sure to celebrate this achievement then.”

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