It is with regret that the Shrine Maple Sugar Bowl, Inc. Board of Governors announces the cancellation of the 67th All-Star classic football game scheduled for Aug. 1 of this year. The novel coronavirus and resulting pandemic has led to the cancellation of high school classes, spring sports, proms, graduation exercises, parades, regional fairs and other traditional social events.
Since March, the Board of Governors remained optimistic that the game could be played and maintained hope the virus emergency orders would become history by summer and the pandemic threat would have less impact on our communities and citizens. We were hopeful this event could be played and fulfill the dreams of the players to participate in this annual tradition. This decision was heartbreaking and gut wrenching and a difficult one to make from the heart. However, it has become obvious that this year’s game cannot be played as it had been in the past.
We remained optimistic the Shrine game would be the catalyst for the start of the new normal for fall sporting events and showcase the talent of the 2020 graduating senior football players. In our continuous 66-year history, the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and remains unknown to the extent in which it could impact our future or our lives.
Since our Board of Governors meeting in March, we have been monitoring New Hampshire and Vermont Administrative emergency health orders and the economic reopening addenda. We understood early on that the game could not be played under the original health orders. It was our anticipation that by June, we would have had a much clearer understanding on the status of the virus and its implications on the summer Shrine game.
Over the past several months we met with a Castleton University representative for on-campus requirements and communicated with the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) for recommendations and guidance on crowd capacities and contact sport provisions. This allowed the Board of Governors to understand the precautions necessary should the game move forward as planned. It became necessary that a decision be made to soon to allow the appropriate time to plan security staff, maintain stadium crowd spacing, vendor and infrastructure requirements and logistics. All this while not knowing what emergency orders and addenda would be in effect at the end of July and into August.
Currently, contact sports remain prohibited and large crowd capacities, such as our game, will not be allowed and could potentially put attendees in jeopardy of spreading the virus. One only has to look at the status of the virus in surrounding states to realize it is only a few hours away and resurgence is seen in several states throughout the country. It is imperative that we do not see a resurgence in New Hampshire or Vermont that could prevent fall activities and schools to resume.
As disappointing as this decision is, it was made from concern for the safety of the players, coaches, families, friends and fans that would be involved. It would be counterproductive to play the game and have the virus spread while playing for the benefit of the patients treated at Shriners Hospitals for Children. We ask sports fans in both states to support this decision and to remain safe and healthy.
The Board of Governors is reviewing our options for recognizing and honoring the players selected to both teams. We are proud of the Maple Sugar Bowl rich tradition and ask that everyone remain positive in supporting the players, the Shrine health care system and your communities. Let us hope the 2020 pandemic is a once in a lifetime event.