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Community reacts to Lynchburg’s International Festival cancellation

A local festival expected to take place this weekend in Lynchburg has been cancelled, due to recent national events.

Festival leaders called the event off out of an abundance of caution but they said there’s been no credible threat to the community or event.

The annual International Festival is supposed to be a celebration of cultures from around the world that thrive in the Hill City.

“They’re a lot of fun,” community member Buck Bradley said. “They’re educational. They’re good for the community.”

But this year, national protests against the Israel-Hamas War have played a role in the cancellation.

City Manager Wynter Benda released a statement saying in part, “The Hill City is proud of celebrating our communities’ diversity and fostering a sense of unity among all residents and visitors. However, recent national events and discussions have raised concerns about potential misuse of events like our International Festival.”

Councilman Marty Misjuns was opposed to shutting the event down. But cited a past experience for the concern, saying in part, “If we allow them, they will encroach upon our communities, as seen in the mass riots and vandalism during the 2020 ‘mostly peaceful’ protests. We must stand firm against their disdain for the American way of life.”

Some community members said they support taking precautions, but others disagree with the decision to cancel.

“It’s unfortunate that these demonstrations are dictating what we can do as a legitimate event in the cities,” Bradley said. “If that’s the case, we should go ahead and still have the event.”

Jacob Crossett who owns Boonies Desserts planned to attend as a vendor. The cancellation now means a financial loss for him and his employees.

“When you don’t have any credible threats, and you decide to cancel an event that so many people in the city look forward to and celebrates the diversity and the different cultures of this area and just shut that down altogether, I think was the wrong move,” Crossett said.

Organizers of a similar event in Roanoke said they’ll still be holding the Local Colors Festival on May 18. They’ll have security and be on alert for any suspicious activity.

Source: WSLS News 10

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