Paul Siebert performs on an early version of a banjo, the body of which were made from gourds, at Washington County Heritage Days in 2019. Siebert, who performs and provides history on early American music across the country, said drum heads were later used by Americans so tension across the face of the body could more be controlled easier.

With future uncertainty surrounding restrictions, impacts and timing issues related to COVID-19, Washington County's annual agricultural history celebration has been canceled.

Though Heritage Days, which is normally held the first weekend of October, will not be held, there is some hope Living History will return to Fort Atkinson in the coming months. Fort Atkinson usually hosts Living History throughout the summer and during many of the events and activities of Heritage Days.

"There's uncertainty when Game and Parks will open again," said Julie Ashton, executive director of the Washington County Historical Association that organizes the festival. "I don't feel comfortable raising money for an event that might not happen."

While many state parks and recreation areas are open for walking trails or camping, Nebraska Game and Parks has canceled all group events and programs until further notice, including the Living History weekend set for July. Fort Atkinson Park Superintendent Jason Grof said cancellations for events like Living History, which was set to begin in April, are being decided month to month.

"We hope to have it open in August," he said. "We won't know until it gets closer."

Grof said the visitors center is currently closed, but Fort Atkinson's trails are open to walk, there's a scavenger hunt at the west gate and new informational signs have been installed around the park grounds.

"There's actually quite a bit" people can still do, Grof said.

But with the cancellations of group events and programs extending so long into the summer, Ashton said there would not be enough time to plan and organize Heritage Days even if parks are opened more fully by August or September. She said it takes months to plan Heritage Days, which includes marketing, advertising, getting events lined up, getting speakers, booking music and raising money from local business partners.

Aside from the uncertainty regarding future Game and Parks decisions, Ashton said she also didn't want to ask for money from local business partners when considering possible effects from the coronavirus.

"I don't feel comfortable asking local business partners who have been closed and impacted themselves for money," she said. "We just felt with these two things, we'd let it go for a year."

Ashton said she's hopeful Living History could still be held the first weekend of October.

"It just would not be a full Heritage Days," she said.

Ashton also hopes Heritage Days in 2021 will be a full event.

"It might be this is our opportunity to look at some different things," she said. "We'll see as time goes."

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