The Lancaster Roots & Blues festival is canceled for 2020 after organizer Rich Ruoff said he needed to care for his wife, who has brain cancer.
"It is with my sincerest apologies that we have to cancel the 2020 festival," Ruoff said in a statement on the event's ticket site Wednesday. "My wonderful wife Claudia was diagnosed last November 2018 with glioblastoma, an awful form of brain cancer. We managed (barely) to put the 2019 festival on but as the disease has progressed it has become clear I won’t be able to be both a caregiver and give the next festival the attention it needs to be a great event.”
When called for additional comment Wednesday afternoon, Ruoff said the note was explanatory and that he would call back, then hung up.
The note said the festival would be back in 2021 and that he'd be in contact with people who already bought tickets.
Before canceling, Ruoff had already planned to scale the event back for 2020.
He wanted to move it from the Lancaster County Convention Center three blocks up North Queen Street to the Holiday Inn Lancaster.
Developer John Meeder, one of the hotel’s owners, said he and his partner, Sam Wilsker, "always knew there was a chance this would not happen. We understood where (Ruoff) was. He was trying to stretch."
Meeder's partner, Sam Wilsker, said, "We knew that Rich has a lot going on personally and we wish him the best."
Both said the event was great for the city.
"We will miss it for the city, we will miss it for the hotel. But we're looking forward to 2021," Meeder said.
Mayor Danene Sorace, who attended the festival, said she was sorry to hear it was canceled, but "first and foremost is the health of his wife ... I am sorry about the Ruoff family and wish them the best," Sorace said.
"I appreciated the diversity of musicians and the benefit that it is to downtown on a cold February weekend," Sorace said.
"Because it was held in the February off-season, it was beneficial to downtown business owners, whether they were a hotel, restaurant or one of the venues," she said.
A 2018 LNP article said Ruoff worked with Discover Lancaster to estimate the festival’s economic impact at around $3 million.
But Ruoff ran into financial problems with the festival.
LNP reported in September that Ruoff estimated he owed $200,000 in payments related to the downtown Lancaster festival. On Monday, he said the approximately $200,000 he still owes consists of loans.
In an interview Monday with LNP about plans for a scaled-back festival, Ruoff said, “Most of my bills are being paid or have been paid."
He also said the festival's investors — a group of 25 people — were anxious that he do well and he wasn't asking them for money.
Staff writer Heather Stauffer contributed to this story.
For past coverage of the Lancaster Roots & Blues Festival: