Revelers race around the mud pit during the Big Wheel Races at Heavy Rebel Weekender on July 6, 2019 in Winston-Salem.

A couple of recent cultural-event cancellations serve as sad reminders that coronavirus is going to be with us for a good long time, no matter how much anyone wishes otherwise. But their organizers deserve to be commended for doing their best in a difficult situation.

The staff and board of directors of the Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors announced on Monday that this year’s festival has been cancelled. “While we are disappointed, the safety of our visitors and staff is our utmost priority,” Jamie Rogers Southern, Bookmarks operations director, told the Journal’s Lynn Felder. “There are too many questions to plan an event that brings 15,000 people together on one day to celebrate books and authors.” She noted that many Bookmarks volunteers and festival-goers are older people who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

This would have been the 16th consecutive year for what has become the biggest book festival in the Carolinas. It’s one of the major events that put Winston-Salem on the map as an exciting destination.

But Southern is right — it would be too much of a risk to plan and prepare such a large event when the future is so uncertain.

All is not lost; Bookmarks continues to serve local residents through its phone-order service and curbside pick-up of purchased books, five days a week. It continues to host online events featuring authors and experts. “We are hoping that in June, we can do shopping by appointment and some in-store events,” Southern told the Journal.

An associated undertaking that’s been curtailed by the virus was the yearlong celebration of the 250th birthday of composer Ludwig von Beethoven, called “Beethoven rocks Winston-Salem.” But Bookmarks, in partnership with the Winston-Salem Symphony, will contribute to that celebration via a virtual book club, which will host a discussion of Hearing Beethoven by Robin Wallace on June 11 via Zoom. For more information about all of these events, visit

A more raucous but just as cerebral celebration, the annual Heavy Rebel Weekender, is also moving online, the Journal’s Tim Clodfelter reported on Tuesday.

Scheduled for June 3-5, this would have been the 20th year of the rockabilly-tinged car and music festival, a treat for ears and eyes. Details are still being worked out, but “I still want to do something over the weekend, even if it’s only online, just to try to be a little bright spot for that community and keep it together,” Courtney Southern, one of the event’s organizers, told the Journal. “I’m also down for any level of participation from local folks and downtown businesses.”

Southern isn’t planning to sell tickets or make money — she just wants to keep the celebration going.

These adjustments to what are largely open-air festivals will be challenging. But it’s a love of human creativity that motivated them in the first place, and their cancellations reveal a deep respect for the people who comprise their audiences. Tomorrow is another day — and 2021 another year.

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