UPDATE: Musikfest will be held in person this coming summer and the festival will take place between Aug. 6 to 15.
Some of the headline performances include Phillip Phillips, Sam Hunt, Zedd, The Wood Brothers and many more.
ArtsQuest will continue to follow local and national CDC guidelines for the event.
“We are working in partnership with ArtsQuest and our community public health and safety partners to put on the safest festival possible in order to support small business, tourism and economic development,” Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez said. “For more than three decades, Musikfest has brought millions of people to Bethlehem. Now, more than ever, it is important to support ArtsQuest including the performers, artists, vendors and small businesses in any capacity possible.”
May 19: Bethlehem resident Shirley Morganelli has not missed a day of Musikfest since the festival started in 1984, with the exception of last year since the event was virtual due to COVID-19.
Morganelli said she is excited for the event to return in person this August, and she will most likely attend, even though she is a little apprehensive about health concerns because she is a nurse.
Musikfest is an American musical festival founded by ArtsQuest that is held annually in Bethlehem.
Patrick Brogan, chief programming officer and manager of ArtsQuest, said currently they are planning to hold an in-person festival in accordance with CDC and state guidelines, but a final announcement won’t be made until later this month.
“We’ve been able to feel the energy that everyone knows is out there of people looking to get back,” Brogan said. “Get back into live concerts and live music and community environments. We also heard the importance of safety and the praise for safety leading the way in our decision-making. We can marry those two things together well in how we plan for the festival.”
Morganelli said she thinks ArtsQuest is smart and creative enough to hold a safe, fulfilling event, and hopes that attendees are honorable and only go if they are vaccinated.
The festival is scheduled to take place from Aug. 6 to 15 at the Steel Stacks.
The festival has confirmed shows for Willie Nelson & Family, Darius Rucker, Shinedown and Kelsea Ballerini.
ArtsQuest has been working closely with the City of Bethlehem, as well as consulting with health officials and the community to come up with the best plan.
“ArtsQuest fully operates, organizes and pays for the festival, the city just provides support however we can,” said Eric Evans, business administrator for the City of Bethlehem. “It’s a significant effort on the city’s part, but the heavy lifting is done by ArtsQuest.”
Brogan said they have also been consulting with colleagues in the event and festival industries, both locally and nationally, to figure out best practices, policies and procedures.
The ArtsQuest team has learned a lot from piloting different COVID-19 procedures at the previous shows they have been holding at Steel Stacks and Levitt Pavilion, Brogan said. These practices include social distancing tables and pods and mandating masks when not seated.
Another challenge ArtsQuest has had to navigate is finances. The nonprofit lost more than 90 percent of their revenue in 2020, however, they have received a lot of support from their corporate sponsors and the Bethlehem community.
Brogan said these gifts are what puts ArtsQuest in a position to be able to hold Musikfest 2021.
Evans said Bethlehem is lucky to have ArtsQuest, as their events drive businesses that enrich the community. He said he is excited to see more activity in downtown Bethlehem during the festival.
“The festival was founded to bring the community together, to celebrate music and arts and inspire and engage the community,” Brogan said. “As well as for economic purposes of driving business in and around the region. All of those factors you very much see alive and well today.”
Mandy Martin, the artist who designed the 2021 Musikfest poster, said this event may represent light at the end of a dark tunnel of the pandemic.
She painted bright poppy flowers in the poster as a symbol of hope for the future and to capture the joyous energy music festivals bring people.
“[The poppies are] reminding us that new growth often arises after times of hardship,” Martin said. “It’s definitely been a difficult year or so for a lot of people. I hope that we can all look at this and feel the sense that new things are on the horizon and new growth is coming.”
Brogan said their weekly Steel Stack shows have been successful so far and many performances have sold out even when at 50 or 30 percent capacity. He anticipates Musikfest will follow suit and full capacity will be allowed.
“Musikfest transformed Bethlehem,” Morganelli said. “It makes such a big impression on me that this area brings so much joy and that people choose to come here for their annual vacation. It’s a hugely important event. Bethlehem is so proud of it and it’s such an asset here that I think it will just go on and on.”