Spectators line Sturtevant Pond Road in Magalloway Plantation to watch the 27th Annual New England Forest Rally in 2017. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal file photo

More than two months before it was scheduled to take place, the 2020 New England Forest Rally was officially canceled Friday due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The event was slated to take place July 31 and Aug. 1 in Maine and New Hampshire until organizers announced the cancellation in a news release on the Rally’s Facebook page. 

“The event organizers had many long and difficult conversations over whether or not the rally could happen this year,” New England Forest Rally chairman Chris Regan told the Sun Journal. “We considered different ways that we would put on a safe, enjoyable event for our competitors, volunteers and fans. We thought about how we might be socially distant in areas such as registration, parc expose, awards and race operations. We did consider a rally without fans, as well.

“The end result of evaluating these options was that none of them resulted in a rally that would be practical, safe and fun.” 

Regan noted that some people involved with the event come from all across the country, including metropolitan areas where COVID-19 is prevalent. Maine’s current 14-day quarantine requirement for out-of-staters added to the organizers’ dilemma.

“Even if that were lifted, we were concerned about inadvertently bringing the virus to the woods of Maine and endangering the health of the communities where we stay, shop and eat.” 

The race was scheduled to run through forests in the Maine towns of Bethel, Newry, Andover, Mexico, Peru and Woodstock. The parc expose was set to take place at Sunday River Resort.

Regan said the announcement was made now because reopening timelines in Maine and other states were becoming clearer and the organizers realized the event was “unfortunately … not to be.” 

“We wanted to give everyone enough notice to minimize the impact of canceling travel and lodging plans,” Regan added. 

Many of the drivers expected the news, Regan said, after hearing of other rallies and various motorsports events being called off. 

“Reactions have been as expected. Disappointment combined with frustration at the disruption COVID-19 has had on their lives,” he said. “As organizers who pour our time and energy into NEFR every year, we feel the same way.” 

Beyond the competition, the Rally brought thousands of people to the areas during the event weekend, Regan said. 

“The economic impact to the towns and businesses that we patronize will no doubt be noticed,” Regan said. “This is the primary reason why we have partnered with our sanctioning organization, (American Rally Association) and other rallies to launch a Rally For A Cause fundraiser. Even though we won’t be in the woods this summer, we can still assist these communities and their food banks, emergency services and other local charities. Our 2020 focus has shifted to launching this online fundraiser.” 

Regan said a link to the online fundraiser can be found on the Rally’s website,  www.newenglandforestrally.com. 

Friday’s news release stated that the New England Forest Rally is scheduled to return in 2021 during the weekend of July 30-31. 

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