Gold Rush festival cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

  • Due to the difficulty in maintaining appropriate social distancing because of COVID-19, the Gold Rush festival’s board of directors made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 edition.
    Due to the difficulty in maintaining appropriate social distancing because of COVID-19, the Gold Rush festival’s board of directors made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 edition.

It’s official. Gold Rush Days 2020 is a no-go.
The festival’s board of directors released the official statement on Facebook Tuesday morning and was met with a chorus of comments that ranged from supportive statements to shocked retorts to the occasional “nooo!”
“After careful planning and thoughtful prayer, we have decided to cancel this year’s Gold Rush Days Festival,” stated the prepared release. “This will be the first time the festival has been cancelled since 1968.”
When contacted by The Nugget, festival organizers declined to comment on the matter outside of the release.
However, Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Chamber Tourism Director Sam McDuffie said he understood the difficult position that committee members found themselves in this year.
“I support their decision,” he said. “I know it was a tough decision to be made.”
That decision was a long time in the making as Gold Rush board members had been keeping watch of coronavirus conditions and searching for a way to safely conduct the October event that has been known to draw shoulder-to-shoulder crowds numbering in the thousands.
“One-by-one we saw the struggle of other festivals cancelling,” stated the release. “I am sure you have seen the list of cancellations spanning all across Georgia.”
Eventually they came to the conclusion that there was no safe way to do it.
“If you have been to Gold Rush, you know how large the crowds can get at times,” stated the release. “We planned various scenarios for addressing the issue and each one fell short of providing the safety required while maintaining the festival experience as we know it.”
Mayor Sam Norton said he understands the reasoning behind that.
“It’s regretful that we’re not having Gold Rush but it’s encouraging that the greater good is weighed over economics,” he said. “… We’re in that hard spot where we want to do well economically but our primary objective is keeping everyone safe.”
Norton added that the city never dictated any plans for the Gold Rush board.
“They came up with their own decision without the heavy hand of government having to make a decision for them,” he said. “… They made a responsible tough decision without somebody else having to be the bad guy.”
Now Gold Rush officials are left with a fundraising dilemma as the festival was key in providing money for numerous local causes.
Last year the 501C3 donated a reported total of $53,000 which provided for college scholarships, direct aid to local families in need, donations to other local non-profits and the wide-reaching Empty Stocking Christmas program.
“This year, like many other groups, we are going to see a huge decrease in our revenue stream, however we are determined to make a positive impact to those in need,” stated the release. "We will restructure our programs and continue to serve this community, regardless of a loss in revenue.”
Those who would like to make donations to help fill the gap are encouraged to contact the Gold Rush group at
Gold Rush officials also encouraged locals to help out merchants during that third weekend in October, which will be much less busy now.
“Our local businesses will dig deep and keep their chin up during these hard times. However, none of us can do it alone,” stated the release. “We all need your help. If you are able, please visit the local downtown businesses, eat at one of our fantastic restaurants, grab a dessert at one of our sweet treat stores, reach out to a non-profit group and offer to make a monetary donation or a donation of volunteer hours.”
Meanwhile, the statement included the hopeful note that Gold Rush will be back in a big way next year.
“Rest assured,” they said. “We will start planning the 2021 festival right away.”