2020 Clewiston Sugar festival canceled

CLEWISTON – The Clewiston Sugar Festival, which had been scheduled for March 21 in Civic Park in Clewiston, has been canceled.

Amidst the bustling planning and release of event information, the City of Clewiston and the Clewiston Sugar Festival Committee issued notice, on the evening of March 10, 2020, that the Sugar Festival had been cancelled. This cancellation came about after a city-wide policy had been adopted, regarding the cancelling of large events and mass gatherings. 

Clewiston City Manager Randy Martin offered the following statement: “City officials are aware of the latest information on new cases of COVID-19 in Florida and particularly South Florida and guidance contained in the Governor’s Executive Order 20-51 and specifically the CDC guidelines for mass gatherings. In consideration of this information and on behalf of the city, festival organizers have been advised to cancel any upcoming large community events. Although there are no known cases in Hendry County, local officials are working with public health officials to assess information as it is provided to us. The reality is any COVID-19 outbreak would stress available local resources and limitations within the community, and it is a risk deemed too high to take by allowing public mass gatherings with thousands of individuals located in a specific defined area.

“This action is taken with deep regret and city officials offer apologies for any inconvenience this may cause, but the city must in abundance of caution take whatever prudent action is necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of this community.”

“In an abundance of caution due to the recommendations regarding limiting potential exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and in keeping with the City of Clewiston’s recommendation to avoid large public events, the 2020 Clewiston Sugar Festival has been cancelled,” read a post on the Sugar Festival’ s Facebook Page.

“This family festival has historically been about fun and fellowship for our rural community and its guests,” said Hillary Hyslope, Chairperson of the Sugar Festival Committee and Executive Director, Clewiston Chamber of Commerce.”


The post went on to explain, “While we regret that the festival will not take place at this time, we are more concerned about doing everything possible to protect our community, our families and all of our guests. While no one has tested positive for COVID-19 in Clewiston or Hendry County, the City of Clewiston issued a notice requesting that all non-critical events be suspended. The Florida Dept of Health and the Center for Disease Control have cautioned organizers of mass gatherings that “health officials may ask you to modify, postpone, or cancel large events for the safety and well-being of your event staff, participants, and the community. In response to the guidance, several large gatherings and events (including major sporting events) are being cancelled throughout the state.” The Facebook post was accompanied by links to the Governor’s Executive Order 20-51 and 20-52. 

“The people of U.S. Sugar certainly regret that the unforeseen issues with the coronavirus have made this cancellation necessary,” said Judy Sanchez of U.S. Sugar. “Everyone looks forward to the Clewiston Sugar Festival and the opportunity for families to get together, celebrate our farming heritage and enjoy some great music with your friends.  However, the health and safety of our communities and its guests must take priority.  Events like this are being cancelled all over the country to protect people.  The Sugar Festival Committee did the right thing.”

The 2020 festival was to feature concerts by Justin Moore, Maddie & Tae, David Lee Murphy and Muscadine Blood Line.

History of the Sugar Festival
The Clewiston Sugar Festival is based on the original end of harvest celebration that was held by the United State Sugar Corporation, dating back to the 1930’s, at the end of each sugarcane harvest season. It was a means of celebration and appreciation for a successful harvest.

In April, when the sugar grinding mill “went down” after the last carload of cane was ground, the mill was cleaned and tables were placed as a barbecue was held for the workers and their families as hosted by the company. That night at the company-owned Sugarland Auditorium (now known as the John B. Boy Auditorium), a formal dance was held and a King and Queen of Sugar were crowned after being chosen by popular vote of the employees.

In the fall of 1986, members of the Clewiston Merchant Association developed the idea of continuing these celebrations city-wide as a way of showcasing our community and showing our appreciation to the sugar industry that provides our economic base.

Over the years, the Sugar Festival evolved into an exciting multiple day event where folks can reunite with family, friends and neighbors at the end of another busy season. People come from the Glades and from across the state to gather for a day of good times; great live entertainment, cane-grinding, a car show, a kids’ park and a variety of food booths sponsored by local civic, school and church organizations that offer the best of local cuisine. The events list has expanded to include a rodeo to celebrate area cowboy heritage; a bass tournament to showcase our natural jewel known as Lake Okeechobee and Seminole Heritage Day at the Clewiston Museum, which focuses on the Seminoles.

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