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By Will Fritz
Staff Writer 

Avocado Festival cancellation impacts Fallbrook businesses


Last updated 4/2/2020 at 2:32pm

The annual Fallbrook Avocado Festival is the biggest event organized in Fallbrook all year.

So, the cancellation of the festival, which had been scheduled for April 19, due to the coronavirus outbreak is sure to impact the Fallbrook business community.

In a typical year, the festival boasts about 450 vendors on Main Avenue, selling everything from food and beverages to solar panels, said Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce CEO Lila MacDonald. It also features an artisan walk on Alvarado Street, with 30 to 35 artists selling handmade crafts.

The event isn’t a huge moneymaker for the Chamber of Commerce, which MacDonald said pays about $75,000 to put on, covering costs for things like permits from the sheriff’s and fire departments, security, tables, chairs, EZ-ups and more.

It can be an important source of income for the businesses that participate, though.

“We do it because it brings a lot of money into our local economy,” MacDonald said. “Some businesses can do two to three days of work in one day.”

One vendor, who sells handmade jewelry at the event, said the Avocado Festival is an even more important income source than that; of the five or so events Michelle Shearer does all year, the festival is her second-biggest one, sales-wise, earning her business about 15% of its usual yearly income.

“It’s always something that I look forward to,” Shearer said. “Every year, sales increase.”

Fortunately for Shearer, she has other jobs and does not rely solely on her crafts business for income, which is not something that other vendors may be lucky enough to say.

“I know some crafters, this is how they pay the bills,” Shearer said.

And even while she wasn’t relying on her crafts income, the absence of it will have an impact.

“I was definitely expecting what I made last year,” Shearer said.

But she said she thought it was ultimately in the community’s best interest to cancel the Avocado Festival.

“Our community and our safety come first,” Shearer said. “It’s a good decision, but it’s a tough one, and I know the chamber and all the volunteers worked so hard. It’s tough one, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Vendors aren’t the only ones who will lose money. Restaurants outside the Avocado Festival’s blocked-off area along Main Avenue will also lose revenue, although with many of them now closed due to the pandemic that was going to happen anyway.

“If it were any other time, it would be terrible, but I think that it’s really hard during this time because we’re going through months of people not having income,” MacDonald said.

While some groups have simply postponed their events, the Avocado Festival is for sure a no-go this year. MacDonald said it wouldn’t have made sense to push the festival back to any other timeframe, as it is scheduled around the avocado harvest season, and other events would be impacted.

“Fallbrook does a lot of stuff. If you look at the calendar, we’re a busy town,” she said. “The season is only until July.”

Given the timing of the outbreak, the only time it would make sense to reschedule the Avocado Festival would be the fall, but that is both out-of-season and in conflict with another chamber event, the Fallbrook Harvest Festival. Given that, the next Fallbrook Avocado Festival will not be until 2021, MacDonald said.

She said the Chamber of Commerce is refunding all vendors the full amount they put down for their spots in the festival.

And while all of Fallbrook will have to wait another year for the Avocado Festival, MacDonald came up with something she hopes will help in the meantime. She’s organized a Facebook group called “Avocado Festival Virtual Shopping” to help vendors continue to sell their products in the absence of an actual festival.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at [email protected]


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