The 2020 FLUKE Mini-Comics & Zine Festival has been postponed to Sept. 5 as a result of growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The festival’s official Twitter account announced the postponement on March 12. Festival organizers Robert Newsome and Patrick Dean were briefed by a medical professional that holding a gathering of over 300 to 500 people was a bad idea, Newsome said.
“She said the main issue was not necessarily infection, but that any of these gatherings can make people sick and could eventually contribute to a situation where medical facilities, doctors and hospitals are overwhelmed,” Newsome said.
The independent publishing festival was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday, March 28 at the 40 Watt Club. The first annual Athens Children's Book Festival was also scheduled for March 28, and was similarly postponed on March 12.
“We try to be understanding of our place in the world,” Newsome said. “We’re a tiny event, we’re not a big deal. But if we could do something that’s a small part of not contributing to the spread of something, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Though some exhibitors have cancelled as a result of the postponement, both sponsors and exhibitors are generally receiving the decision warmly, Newsome said. The festival maintained a waiting list for exhibitors, so a handful were removed as a result of the cancellations.
“There was a little disappointment, but overall it’s been a reassuring and supportive process,” Newsome said.
There were no financial setbacks for the postponement, Newsome said. The festival operates on a tight budget, and organizers were able to reschedule the date with the venue and the table rental company at no cost. Any exhibitor who cancels will receive a refund for the table fee they paid, Newsome said.
The main logistical setback to the postponement is the date itself. Festival organizers believed August was too early and October was too late, which only left the month of September — the beginning of the University of Georgia’s football season.
Sept. 5 is the only Saturday in Athens where the Georgia football team isn't playing a home game, Newsome said. The date, however, coincides with Atlanta’s five-day Dragon Con pop culture convention. Though there is limited crossover between FLUKE, which focuses on independent publishing, and the more mainstream-focused convention, some exhibitors have cancelled as a result of the concurrence.
Organizers’ plans for the upcoming months is to keep up a level of anticipation for the event. They have made the decision to use the extended time frame as an opportunity to “slowly, but consistently get the message out” and maintain a consistent presence on social media.