When the Burnet Chamber of Commerce announced the cancellation of the 2020 Bluebonnet Festival due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, the nonprofit lost one of its major sources of income.
One unanticipated victim of the cancellation was the popular festival T-shirts, which have become collector’s items over the event’s 37-year history. In response to popular demand, the chamber has released two T-shirts, humorously reflecting the canceled event, which was to be held April 10-12. All proceeds will go to the chamber and visitor center.
“We had so many requests,” chamber Executive Director Kim Winkler said. “(The shirts are) collectables. We had so many people that were disappointed that they weren’t going to have a 2020 T-shirt, so we came up with a solution.”
The two shirts make tongue-in-cheek references to the canceled event. One features the tagline: “The One Where We Didn’t Get Reckless.” (The band Reckless Kelly was booked to perform.) The other shirt’s graphic includes a roll of toilet paper and an askew sign saying, “Sorry Event Cancelled.”
“The ‘Reckless” one was our board president’s daughter,” Winkler said. “She had that idea, and we thought it was a fantastic one. It’s been very popular.”
Money from sales of the T-shirts will go to the Burnet Chamber of Commerce, whose primary function is to support and promote local businesses. While the chamber has taken a financial hit with the loss of the 2020 festival, it is still supporting its members through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Bluebonnet Festival is, of course, our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Winkler said. “Like everyone else, this current situation has impacted us in a big way. We’re trying to make lemons out of lemonade. We, like most of our small businesses, have applied for loans and assistance.”
The chamber’s role during the pandemic and subsequent shutdown of businesses has been primarily informational, providing resources to local business owners so they can apply for those same government loans and grants.
“In addition to that, we’re trying to help people to be aware of what restaurants are open, the businesses that are staying open, what their offerings are, and trying to encourage to support local, buy local,” Winkler said.
The chamber has daily contests for $20 gift cards to different restaurants. It’s also organizing a Facebook marketplace for would-be Bluebonnet Festival vendors to sell their wares, which should be open in the next week or so.
“We’re all in this together,” Winkler said. “Truly, it’s impacting all of us. We all understand people at different levels are all going through different things, but we can all commiserate with each other. I just want to encourage everyone to support in any way they can.”