Organizers of the popular Off the Rails Concert Series held at the Burr Performing Arts Park in downtown Dalton have canceled this year's series due to concerns about the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
"We really agonized over this decision," said David Aft, president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia on Tuesday. "We looked at virtual concerts, social distancing, the things we'd need to do to make it happen. We moved our schedule around so many times, and the deeper we got into it, we saw it would be a stretch to make it happen the way we wanted it to happen."
The Off the Rails concerts are organized by a committee consisting of the Community Foundation, the Creative Arts Guild, the Dalton Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Downtown Dalton Development Authority (DDDA).
The committee announced in the first week of June it was postponing the 2020 series while members tried to figure out what they needed to do to hold the concerts while protecting the public from the virus.
In 2019, 10 concerts were held on consecutive Friday nights featuring music spanning many genres, from bluegrass to Latin to Motown to jazz. A special season-ending End of the Line concert was staged in September. All concerts are family-friendly, free and open to the public. The concerts consistently drew several hundred people, and one show had 1,200 estimated attendees.
Noe Maldonado played at Burr Park last year with the band Sexto Elemento.
"It was just awesome to be up there on that stage," he said. "It was great to be a part of all that, a really diverse lineup of performers, and the community really seemed to support it."
Not only did the concerts show off Burr Park, they helped attract people downtown and gave businesses a boost. Many people ate dinner before attending the shows and stayed downtown afterward.
"This was a difficult decision, but protecting the health and safety of the performers and the people who attend these concerts is our top priority," said DDDA Interim Director George Woodward.
Woodward said if organizers become more confident of their ability to present a concert safely they might hold some "one-off" concerts later this year.
The DDDA announced on Monday that due to continued concerns about the coronavirus it will not accept or approve event permits in the downtown Dalton district until after July 31.