Citing a trifecta of concerns related to costs and safety, the Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has decided not to conduct its biggest annual fundraising event this year.
“With deep regret, the (Chamber) has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2023 Taste of Morgan Hill,” Chamber CEO and President Nick Gaich said in a statement. “The board’s decision to cancel the event was specifically driven by the significant cost escalations to secure public safety requirements; increases in insurance premiums for large venues; and growing concerns to maintain a safe and accessible festival space.”
The two-day street festival has traditionally taken place each year during a late September weekend in downtown Morgan Hill. The event has drawn thousands of residents and visitors to town, and features a variety of food, merchandise and arts and crafts vendors, as well as live entertainment and children’s activities.
However, the last time the Taste of Morgan Hill occurred was in 2019. The festival was canceled by the chamber in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and state-issued restrictions on public gatherings. The chamber canceled the 2022 Taste of Morgan Hill due to factors related to cost, security and insurance requirements.
Gaich added that for the rest of this year, the chamber board will work with City of Morgan Hill staff and other nonprofit organizations to monitor other large events scheduled in nearby communities. They hope to gain some insight on how to safely and efficiently conduct a festival under the new-normal environment where heightened security risks like mass shootings have led insurance companies and public officials to become more cautious about participating in large events.
With the 2023 festival season just getting underway in the Bay Area and Central Coast, local chamber officials will keep a close eye on annual street events that also draw large crowds to outdoor public venues in cities such as San Jose, Willow Glen, Campbell, Saratoga, Los Gatos and others.
“We are committed to reimagining possible smaller venues for future events in support of our Morgan Hill businesses, nonprofits and community members,” Gaich added.
Other street festivals that have not seen a consistent comeback since before the pandemic include the Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras and the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
Although organizers resumed the Mushroom Mardi Gras in 2022 for the first time since 2019, this year they canceled a planned rebranded event for Memorial Day weekend due to a last-minute contract failure with their private security provider. The Gilroy Garlic Festival—which drew massive crowds to Christmas Hill Park for about 40 consecutive years in July—has not resumed since a mass shooting at the 2019 event resulted in three deaths and 17 injured festival-goers.
This year, the Morgan Hill Chamber did not want to risk jeopardizing its other programs and events by shelling out extensive costs to meet insurance requirements and the city’s public safety guidelines to host the Taste of Morgan Hill, Gaich added.
“We do not want to adversely impact programs such as the Chamber’s Rock the Mock Program, Student Manufacturing Day, Friday Night Music Series, monthly Business Breakfasts and Mixers and Quick 5 podcast that spotlights our local businesses and nonprofits,” Gaich said. “We deeply appreciate your continued support and understanding and will keep you informed on our progress.”
Gaich added that the chamber is considering a smaller fundraising event to make up for the absence of the Taste of Morgan Hill, but details are not yet determined.
The chamber recently announced that its annual Friday Night Music Series will occur as usual this summer, starting June 16 at the Downtown Morgan Hill Amphitheater at the Community & Cultural Center. The concert series takes place 5:30-9pm each Friday through Aug. 18.
Another great event that hasn’t come back since the prolonged and useless lockdowns/mandates imposed in CA. I wonder how much more expensive permits are – and any additional requirements that cost money? It’s just so hard in this area to do normal, family fun things anymore.
As I read the story, the cancelation of the event is less about the effects of the pandemic closures and more about the cost of securing insurance and security with the epidemic of mass killings at the hands of mentally ill people with guns. I suspect that until we can get to a culture of assuming such large mass events can be reasonably safe, it will continue to be unaffordable, or just plain impossible, to get general liability for such events. Pretty sad.