ROCK FALLS – The Sauk Valley Water Ski Show, which would have taken to the Rock River for its third year later this month, is canceled, it was announced on Sunday.
Organizer Matthew Hicks had been working to be able to put something together within the guidelines set out by Phase 4 of Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan, but with the limitation of 50 people for a gathering, there was not much he would have been able to do.
"Disappointed that I couldn't provide something for the community to come and watch, especially at this time where there is nothing going on and people are looking for something to do," Hicks said. "It's frustrating for me, because I'm held back by the restrictions, and 50 people is the limit total, and there is no getting around that."
The show once again would have featured the Ski Broncs out of Loves Park.
Hicks spent the last few weeks pulling out all the stops, trying to get something in place, calling city officials, health department officials and state officials with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
"I spoke with them about four times on the phone over a period of a couple weeks and tried to get solid answers, and they didn't have solid answers right away," Hicks said.
While the guidelines specifically call for social distancing if there are bleachers set up, the Sauk Valley Water Ski Show typically involved fans bringing lawn chairs to Seward's Park in Rock Falls.
"I tried every angle and every option to be able to do the show, and everything came to a dead end due to the guidelines," Hicks said.
The show started in 2018, and organizers added a second show in 2019, drawing by Hicks' estimation more than 200 people to each despite sweltering heat that weekend, with the show growing to include three bands and a lineup of vendors.
"I've always wanted to have entertainment for the community," Hicks said. "It's a free event and a place for businesses and people to give back to the community by sponsoring, so every year we're looking for sponsors for it."
Organizers this year were targeting a date in late June, then pushed that back to July 25 with the hopes that something would be able to be worked out to keep them within the state's guidelines.
There was also a backup date in August, but Hicks is not confident that the state will be out of Phase 4 by then, meaning there would still be a cap on the number of people at a gathering.
Hicks is hoping to spend the next year making sure the show will be back bigger and better in 2021.