AmericanaFest has announced new safety guidelines for this year’s event in response to the Delta variant of Covid-19. All attendees will now be required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test prior to entry to any of the festival’s concerts, showcases and panels. Masks are also encouraged for any indoor functions, including for people who have already been vaccinated. AmericanaFest runs September 22nd to 25th at venues throughout Nashville.
The news follows weeks of speculation over how organizers would address the latest surge in Covid-19 cases. Earlier this month, the Music Venue Alliance of Nashville implemented their own restrictions for access — many of the venues are long-time hosts of AmericanaFest showcases. AmericanaFest’s new rules largely fall into alignment with those of the Alliance and the Center for Disease Control, stipulating that full vaccination must be completed at least 14 days prior to the start of the festival or that a negative test falls within 72 hours of entry.
Jed Hilly, the executive director of the Americana Music Association, said in an interview with Rolling Stone that it was paramount to be on the same page with its more than dozen host venues. “We’re not LiveNation, we’re not Bonaroo. We don’t own the land that we produce our event on,” Hilly says. “Every single event, every single venue, every single nighttime venue, is donated to the Association by the clubs, which is extraordinarily generous. This Association would not exist without the clubs.”
With plans in place, organizers spent the past several days reaching out to the 240 artists and 190 panelists booked for next month’s programming about what the protocol would look like moving forward. This year’s performing lineup includes artists like Kathleen Edwards, Rodney Crowell, Allison Russell, Joshua Ray Walker, Kelsey Waldon, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Dave Hause, Ida Mae, Jackson + Sellers, Jillette Johnson, Langhorne Slim, Michaela Anne, Miko Marks, and Sierra Ferrell.
Hilly expressed optimism that there wouldn’t be pushback from within the ranks over the vaccination policy. “I’m hopeful that, and I firmly believe that, all of the people, the partners, the sponsors, the panelists, and the artists — we’ve gotten no flak,” he says. “And I think the reason why is we did not push the venues. We didn’t tell anybody what to do.”
Hilly also acknowledges the frustration over the lack of news up till now. “I know that people want to know. Some people are not happy with us and feel like we have a bigger obligation to share what it is that we’re thinking and planning. To that I say I hear you, I’m listening, I understand. But it’s important to me to first talk to everybody that [creates] the content of what AmericanaFest is,” Hilly says.
Those discussions have played out over the course of the past three to four weeks. “If we had made an announcement two weeks ago, I have no idea what would have happened,” Hilly adds. “It could have gone either way. I wanted to work with some certainty in an uncertain world. And that certainty at least is based on communicating with everybody and not just making a decision unilaterally.”
AmericanaFest’s marquee Americana Honors & Awards ceremony will take place at the Ryman Auditorium on the opening night of the festival, Wednesday, September 22. The awards will also require proof of vaccination or a negative test. Brandi Carlile, Amythyst Kiah, Valerie June, and Jason Isbell, who recently enacted his own vaccination policy for his concerts, are among the nominees.