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The Herald & Review's No. 4 story of 2020: Entertainment takes a break

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DECATUR — Fairs, festivals, shows and concerts rely on people, and lots of them, for survival.

The year of 2020 and social distancing made for a difficult season for many in the entertainment business.

Some programs and events adjusted to the times, while others are still uncertain of the future.

In recent years, the Decatur Celebration has been challenged with low numbers of visitors and financial returns. What would have been the festival’s 35th year was canceled in April due to COVID restrictions. The Celebration board later voiced their concerns about the 2021 season and beyond.

"The future of the Decatur Celebration is very uncertain and our greatest concern at this time is the lack of financial resources," board chairwoman Claudette Davis said in November.

The board continues to seek a cash infusion of at least $150,000 or a collaboration it says is needed to keep the festival going.

By June, the opportunities for any national entertainment in Decatur were squelched when Nelson Park’s Devon Lakeshore Amphitheater was forced to cancel its 2020 shows as well.

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“We want our guests to have the experience they expect when they come to The Devon. With the current restrictions, we don’t feel that we could offer that in the time remaining in the summer,” Mike Wilcott, general manager of The Devon, said after the decision to cancel their second season.

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Sullivan’s Little Theatre-On the Square lost most of its revenue by canceling the entire summer season. "We lost out on over 40,000 people coming to Sullivan this year," said Executive Director John Stephens. "That not only hurts us, but the surrounding businesses in our area who rely on visitors coming from out of town to see a show at The Little Theatre. Your financial support is needed now more than ever."

Other popular shows readjusted their performances to fit the times.

Millikin University’s popular holiday concert Vespers was shown online with clips from the past. For more than 60 years, the show has been one of the university's most popular annual events.

The program consisted of a compilation from past performances and new pieces.

Several other shows took advantage of technical options. National ragtime piano player Julie McClarey-Smith gave another popular holiday performance seen on the screen. The event was a Salvation Army fundraiser performed on stage with a few audience members available for audible clapping.

Like many performers missing opportunities to perform, McClarey-Smith didn’t want social distancing to stop her.

“We decided to do what we could in the midst of the pandemic, because the need is even greater,” McClarey-Smith said.


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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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