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Tempe Festival of the Arts, Ironman Arizona canceled due to COVID-19 case spike

The two events were scheduled within the next three weeks but will now take place in 2021

Tempe Festival of the Arts picture

Visitors pictured at the spring 2017 Tempe Festival of the Arts in Tempe, Arizona.

Tempe Festival of the Arts and the Ironman Arizona were not granted permission to take place in the upcoming days, the city of Tempe said in a statement on Friday.

A statement by Tempe Festival of Arts said the decision was made “based on an abundance of caution due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in our ZIP code, the county and the state of Arizona.”

Ironman Arizona and the Tempe Festival of the Arts were scheduled for Nov. 22 and Dec. 4-6, respectively. 

The previous Ironman Arizona 70.3 triathlon, which was held in October, had advanced safety protocols which made the event safe and successful. 

However, city of Tempe said after further conversation with health officials, it did not want to risk the health of athletes as cases started to surge again. 

City of Tempe said one of the main reasons for canceling Ironman Arizona was because "athletes would be flying and driving to Tempe from other places." 

Racers dive into Tempe Town Lake to get to the starting line of the Ironman triathlon on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.

Kate Borders, the executive director and president of Downtown Tempe Authority, said although she was hoping the events could happen, canceling them was the right call. 

“Last week, we were aware that (case) numbers had spiked pretty drastically,” Borders said. “We just thought that it would be better to make a decision at this point.” 

Arizona and Maricopa County’s COVID-19 numbers have been rising since the beginning of October, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. On Sunday, ADHS reported 2,383 new coronavirus cases, which is around the same number of new reported cases Arizona saw in June. 

Borders said her team is coming up with different ideas on how to hold some of these staple events safely in the near future. 

The Festival of the Arts attracts “many out-of-state local artists and patrons,” she said, and canceling the event could hurt some of these artists in terms of revenue. 

Borders said even though the festival is canceled, there are still smaller markets available, and people can support artists that way.

“We have an event called the 6th Street Market that is a smaller market every Sunday,” Borders said. “I would recommend people go to (this) market, and there are some artists there.” 

She said the Downtown Tempe Authority website also provides information about artists' sales throughout the year, and the city is working to promote virtual sales for some of the artists that were going to be part of the festival. 

Borders said she is hoping to reschedule the festival sometime in March. Ironman Arizona will return on Nov. 21, 2021.

 Reach the reporter at or follow @autriya_manesh on Twitter. 

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