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Bethlehem’s Musikfest goes virtual this summer

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The 2020 Musikfest will be a virtual hybrid of sorts, recreating a version of the 10-day live music festival attended by millions since its founding by ArtsQuest in 1984.

Live studio broadcasts, virtual shows and social media platforms will provide Musikfest performers and audiences a way to honor the nation’s largest free admission music festival this year.

Festival organizations held a virtual press conference June 10, and stressed the situation continued to evolve.

“As we were trying to figure out how this virus was changing … and watching the entire industry cancel … roll up shop and call it a day, we found it was very important to find ways to connect with the community,” said Kassie Hilgert, ArtsQuest president and CEO.

The annual 10-day event brings more than 1.2 million visitors to Bethlehem and surrounding areas in the greater Lehigh Valley and generates approximately $75 million in revenue for area small businesses, hotels and related groups.

This year’s event will continue to evolve, as officials meet weekly with Bethlehem public officials and watch restriction mandates out of Harrisburg.

“We are not front-line health care or front-line responders, but we can have communal experiences in the arts,” Hilgert said.

Virtual Musikfest includes 40 performances aired live through Service Electric television studios, on-site food and beverage pick-ups at SteelStacks and another 40 performances hosted on various live stream and social media platforms, ArtsQuest officials said during a virtual press conference Wednesday.

With the global coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty over when Pennsylvania will reach the green phase of opening, Hilgert said plans would evolve over the next several weeks.

Tickets purchased for 2020 will be honored for the rescheduled show.

Officials said Darius Rucker’s performance has been rebooked for Aug. 7, 2021, and 2020 tickets will be good for entry to the show. Those unable to attend will have options regarding refunds by contacting ArtsQuest.

Plans for many of the bands scheduled to perform at Musikfest 2020 have not been finalized, ArtsQuest officials said.

Once new dates are announced those unable to attend the new show dates or who desire ticket refunds, may request them, officials said.

The economic impact of Musikfest to the community helps support roughly 125 small businesses that depend upon the festival for support, according to Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez.

Hilgert said while ticket sales are a huge revenue stream to ArtsQuest many of the festival and nonprofit organization’s corporate sponsors have stepped up to support this version of Musikfest.

And as in prior years, musicians will be paid to perform.

“We’re all anxious to feel the thump of the bass in our chests again,” said Patrick Brogan, ArtsQuest chief programming officer.

Virtual Musikfest will be held from July 31 to Aug. 9, with online access to about 80 performances.

For festival and show rebooking updates visit musikfest.org, the ArtsQuest Facebook page or Instagram.


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