Editor's note: This article was updated at 2:57 p.m. July 23, 2020, with more information.
MOREHEAD CITY — Officials announced Wednesday programming for the 34th annual N.C. Seafood Festival is being “redeveloped” in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The event was set to take place Friday-Sunday, Oct. 2-4 on the Morehead City waterfront. Organizers specified the festival is not being canceled outright, but a number of events will go virtual instead. If time and guidelines allow, some events may take place on or near the waterfront.
“While answers are still not clear, we simply could not wait any longer to let you, our fans, know our direction and bring you to the table to enjoy this new experience with us,” the N.C. Seafood Festival Board of Directors said in a Wednesday Facebook post announcing new plans for the festival. “We know that taking the chance of bringing over 200,000 people to our community would not be wise or safe in the situation of a world pandemic.”
Among the events being shifted is The Cooking with the Chefs Tent, sponsored by the N.C. Department of Agriculture, which will become a delivery service, according to a press release from festival organizers. Other events set to move online include the festival’s road races.
Event Chairperson Bryan Starling said safety was at the root of the decision to move to events online.
“Our biggest concern is keeping our Community safe and working to minimize the risk and spreading of COVID-19,” he stated in the release. “The current government regulations in place have also impacted our ability to move forward with the Festival layout and activities that our community, sponsors, and attendees have grown to expect. We recognize that this decision directly impacts our community and the many groups and organizations that work and support the Festival every year.”
Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Jim Browder said he agrees going virtual is the “right thing to do” to protect the health of residents and visitors, but it will likely have a large financial impact on the area. He called the annual N.C. Seafood Festival a signature event for Carteret County that generates significant revenue, especially during the off-season.
“It brings in a lot of people in the shoulder season of early October,” he said.
Festival officials said more details about virtual experiences will be announced as the October event date approaches.