Updated: This year's Bristol Rhythm & Roots has been canceled

J. H. Osborne • Jul 6, 2020 at 10:56 AM

BRISTOL, Va. — It’s official. The 20th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Festival won’t happen this year. Because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus, the event has been rescheduled for Sept. 10-12, 2021.

The Birthplace of Country Music (BCM) announced the decision Monday.

The event, scheduled for Sept. 11-13, has been put on hold until 2021, BCM Executive Director Leah Ross said, noting the organization's board of directors vote on the decision was unanimous.

BCM is parent organization of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, the annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival and WBCM Radio Bristol.

"For the Birthplace of Country Music, this is the saddest day our organization has ever had to face," Ross said. "The decision to cancel this year's Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival has been extremely difficult for our board, our Festival Committee and our staff. Doing so on what would have been our 20th anniversary event is even more devastating. We know how deeply our decision will affect our fans, artists, volunteers and community, both emotionally and economically, but we value your lives and the safety of your families above all. You have helped us grow this beautiful community into one of the most extraordinary and unique cities in the country, and for that we are so grateful."

Ross said the festival is also one of the largest fundraisers for the Birthplace of Country Music.

“Moving forward, we humbly ask for your help, your kindness and your understanding as our organization rises to face a substantial financial hardship," Ross said.

BCM is working now to recover financial losses accumulated after the three-month closure of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Ross said.

The museum, a Smithsonian affiliate located in Historic Downtown Bristol, reopened in June with stringent social distancing guidelines, including face coverings and heightened cleaning protocols in place.

At the reopening, the organization announced the Bristol Sessions Super Raffle fundraiser, which debuted last year, was making a return. Funds raised are needed now more than ever to help mitigate the losses from the museum’s closure and now the cancellation of Rhythm & Roots, Ross said.

The raffle drawing, slated to be held at the museum on Sept. 13 from noon to 4 p.m. on what would have been the last day of this year's festival, will still take place. Participants in the raffle do not have to be present to win.

"For those of you that have purchased tickets to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, we understand that holding on to them may have been a hardship during this time for you as well," Ross said this morning.  "For that reason, we are offering three options with the return of your 2020 festival ticket, including the choice for a refund. It is our hope that the majority of you will choose to hold on to your tickets for next year to help ease the financial burden now placed on our festival. The cancellation of the event has significant repercussions to our organization, and we need your help."

Options are:

• 2020 festival ticket holders have the option to donate all or a portion of their ticket cost back to the festival to help ensure the same quality event next year. Ross explained that every effort is being made to keep the same lineup, if artists' schedules allow.

• Ticket holders may also choose to defer tickets until 2021 to avoid any potential increase in price next year.

• Ticket holders may request a refund.

Ross also announced other ways to support the Birthplace of Country Music during this challenging situation:

• All donations will go to the 2020 Festival Recovery Fund, with incentives for those who donate their tickets.

• Anyone who makes a one-time donation of $75 to $249 will become a 2020 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Hero.

• Donate between $75 and $249 in 2020 festival ticket purchases or make a cash donation of at least $75 to Birthplace of Country Music Inc. for the festival and receive: recognition on a permanent plaque in the Birthplace of Country Music Museum as a 2020 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Hero; recognition on 2021 festival website; recognition as a 2020 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Hero in the Festival Program Guide; a discount of 10% on 2021 festival tickets equal to the number of tickets donated or for every $100 donated; a special edition 20th anniversary poster, which is printed in foil and signed by the artist; name included in a recognition ad in a local newspaper.

• Donate more than $250 in ticket purchases or cash to BCM for the festival and receive everything listed above, plus: a 2020 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Hero T-shirt; a 2020 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Hero sticker; a one-year membership to the 1927 Society.

The deadline for donations is Aug. 14.

A frequently asked questions section has been added to the festival's website at BristolRhythm2020.com to help ticket holders navigate the new donation incentives and refund policies, Ross said.

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