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Cancellation of Springfield’s Route 66 Festival, Loverboy concert show pandemic problems aren’t over yet

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 6:51 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Just when you thought the cancelled events and sudden changes in plans caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were on the way out comes word that two major events scheduled for Springfield have been cancelled.

One of the main concerts planned for the Ozark Empire Fair on July 29 featuring 80′s rockers Loverboy is now off the fair’s schedule after the band cited travel restrictions in their native Canada.

And one of Springfield’s biggest annual events, the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival scheduled for August 13-14, has now been called off for a second straight year because of COVID-19 concerns.

Rusty Worley, the Executive Director of the Downtown Springfield Association, is a member of the festival’s steering committee who made the tough decision to postpone the event again after the area was declared one of the five national hot spots for new cases of COVID-19 and local hospitals became overwhelmed with patients.

“Our partners don’t want to put more stress on our hospital systems,” Worley said of the decision. “With our rapidly rising case counts and impacts on our hospital beds we had to reevaluate our plans very quickly. Springfield has been getting a lot of coverage in the national news and we don’t like that kind of national coverage. So given all those things, the group made the hard decision to cancel again this year.”

It was just over two months ago at the end of April that the announcement was made that the festival was coming back after a year-long hiatus but the sudden surge of the Delta variant in the Ozarks is a sign of more trouble to come if the situation doesn’t improve.

“The cancellation of the Route 66 Festival is another visible manifestation of the consequences of not having enough people vaccinated,” Worley said. “It’s something for our community we’re not able to have but it reinforces that we’re still having a loss of life and drain on our health care systems. These are tangible consequences of not getting vaccinated and if folks were thinking its affecting someone else, it’s touching everyone.”

Worley said enthusiasm was high for the return of the event with over 450 classic cars already registered and that he believes the interest will not wane even with another year’s wait.

“We’re confident the energy will still be there but we have to make sure the conditions are right to host it,” he said. “We know people want to get out but this particular event, the scale it was and how it draws from across the country, just made it difficult to justify having it at this time.”

The festival drew 65,000 people the last time it was held in 2019 with an estimated $2 million of economic impact. Downtown businesses, already affected by the loss of sales during the pandemic, will not be getting a much-needed shot-in-the-arm from the festival but Worley said the postponement may have prevented another problem.

“The staffing challenges that many of our restaurants are facing right now,” he pointed out. “It might have been difficult for many of our restaurants along the Motor Mile to sufficiently staff up for the throngs of people we would have had.”

Meanwhile Loverboy is the only act that’s pulled out of the Ozark Empire Fair and General Manager Aaron Owen said he doesn’t anticipate any more changes.

Loverboy is from Canada, and right now that country is warning its residents to avoid all non-essential travel.

When asked what he knew of the situation, Owen said the band’s management was not specific.

“Of course they told us what we could say and that it’s the travel restriction guidelines between them and Canada,” Owen said. “There would have been some ways that they could have got around that but they elected not to do that probably.”

Instead, three local bands (Dr. Zhivegas, Sequel Dose and Members Only) will be part of a concert on July 29 celebrating the fair (85th) and the state of Missouri’s (200th) birthdays.

Tickets to that concert are free with a paid admission to the fair although reserved seats and pit passes for a closer view will cost $10 (going up to $15 the day of the show).

As for Loverboy refunds, all ticket holders who purchased tickets online will be issued automatic refunds for the ticket value and credit card fees along with their fair admission if they purchased that in addition to their concert tickets.

If tickets were purchased in person with cash or check please call 417-833-2660 or e-mail

boxoffice@ozarkempirefair.com for information on how to get a refund

The rest of the fair including the rides and other entertainment is going on as planned starting July 29 although COVID concerns will still be a consideration.

“A lot of the things we learned last year that worked for us we’re going to continue,” Owen explained. “There will still be masks if you want one at various locations. We’re not demanding those, they’re just there for you. We’ll still have hand sanitizers. We’re not gonna have bleachers, we’re gonna have chairs at the free stages and pig races so you’re not forced to sit somewhere. You can grab a chair and sit wherever you like. We’re gonna continue our sanitizing the same as we did last year. We made it with no contact tracing back to us last year so why try to do something different? We want to be good stewards and do those things even though we’re not mandated to do it.”

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