While the summertime festival known as Barbecue on the River has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, organizers are planning an “off the river” event to take its place.

Susie Coiner, the organization’s president, announced Tuesday that holding the fundraising festival on the city’s riverfront — like it has been for the past 25 years — “will simply not be possible” due to the coronavirus.

That decision was made after conversations with city, local and state officials, as well as other partners whose participation is vital, according to Coiner.

“The health and safety of our attendees, vendors, participants and volunteers are of the utmost importance to us,” Coiner said.

“We believe the most prudent course of action at this time is to cancel the 2020 downtown festival.”

At the same time, Coiner said a “Barbecue OFF the River” will be held Sept. 24-26, to keep the spirit of the festival, which has raised $400,000-plus annually in the past, alive.

“As an event downtown is not possible, we are hoping to pull off a Barbecue Trail, off the river, where Barbecue on the River fans will still be able to enjoy some of their favorite foods and support their favorite charities across our region,” she said.

“We have formed such a beautiful relationship with these charities, we’re working with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the Health Department, all the players to make sure that (an off-river event) is possible ... and I do think it is.

“We’re not policy-makers, we’re festival organizers,” she said. “One of the main reasons that Barbecue on the River has been so successful is that we listen to the experts directing us in all areas of food and safety. Whatever they say we should do, we do.

“The (approximately 75) charities are amazing bodies and our food vendors so talented, I think we can be innovative,” Coiner said.

“We’re just finalizing details. I’ve talked to many of our vendors, but I’m going to call them all and see how they would like it to work.

“Then we can formulate the plan. We just have to follow the guidelines to keep it safe.”

Barbecue on the River plans a return to its original format next year, Sept. 23-25, 2021.

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