SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Organizers for San Francisco’s wildly popular free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival announced Saturday that this year’s event will be canceled in light of the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

The festival, which has featured the likes of rock legend Robert Plant, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, T-Bone Burnett and others, annually draws hundreds of thousands of fans to Golden Gate Park over an October weekend listen to great music. Since it began, the event has never charged an admission fee.

But now it has gone the way of San Francisco’s Outside Lands, Napa’s Bottlerock, the summer-long Stern Grove Music Festival, Coachella 2020, SXSW 2020 and other large music gatherings that have been canceled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news came from the festival’s artist relations manager, Bonnie Simmons, who took part in a livestream with the rock band Los Lobos on Saturday to make the announcement, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Simmons said the festival in Golden Gate Park needed to be canceled in accordance with current public health guidelines which prohibit large gatherings.

Event organizers also announced the launch of the Hardly Strictly Music Relief Fund: Bay Area, described as a $1.5 million charitable initiative “to support our local music community during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The initiative is making grants of up to $2,000 available to American roots musicians living in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, and Sonoma counties who are eligible to apply for the one-time, unrestricted support.

“With this effort, we seek to recognize, appreciate, and care for the people who lend their creativity, heart, and hard work to the American roots music ecosystem in the Bay Area,” organizers said.

An application will be online in August, they said.

A select number of music venues “with a track record of presenting American roots styles from across the Bay Area” will also be invited to apply for grants, with preference given to nonprofit operations.

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