PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — For the last 18 years, the three-day "Feast of Little Italy" festival has packed downtown Abacoa with an average attendance of around 23,000 people. All searching for Italian music, food and fellowship.
This year, the event's organizer, Jerry Somma, has pulled the plug on the 19th annual cannoli-fueled event due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We are canceling the event because of [the] current situation out in our community and to protect the safety of friends and people who have supported us for almost two decades," Somma said.
This announcement comes as three sources tell WPTV NewsChannel 5's Taste and See South Florida, SunFest has started laying off full-time team members because of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Foundations like Susan G. Komen have moved all its fundraising events like walks and races into a virtual space for 2020.
Somma made his statement while sitting at a long table at Lynora's Italian Restaurant in Palm Beach Gardens with a plate of lasagna (it's National Lasagna Day) in front of him serving as his "comfort food."
"We all know as growing up Italian-American, good news or bad news, it takes place at one place the kitchen table," he said.
Somma said before canceling the event, the festival looked at spreading things out to create a more socially distant environment for vendors and guests.
"This festival has always been built on families, and to think for one moment that one person gets ill or anything attending the event wouldn't rest well with me," Somma said.
The Feast of Little Italy was the kickoff to the Little Smiles Toy Drive that provides holiday presents to kids in need. To help make sure the Toy Drive is successful this year, they started collecting six months early this past weekend.
More from Taste and See South Flordia: Santa and his helpers started the event Saturday in Jupiter.
Somma said the cancellation has a big economic impact on food vendors and big sponsors like Alfa Romeo FIAT in West Palm Beach.
The Feast of Little Italy saids its 20th-anniversary event that will run Nov. 5-7, 2021, will be free to the public. It was a previously ticked event.
"Let's be together, let's break bread and let's enjoy everything that's Italian [in 2021]," Somma said.
This is one of the first events in South Florida to be canceled for the 2020-21 season for the month of November.