ROXBURY, NJ – Unwilling to trust the COVID-fighting capabilities of Christmas carols, Roxbury officials have pulled the plug on a proposed “Vocal Vaccine” outdoor sing-along and holiday music concert.

The Dec. 12 show, which was to take place at the Horseshoe Lake Park bandshell, has been canceled. So has the Dec. 6 holiday tree and menorah lighting ceremony.

The Vocal Vaccine event was planned by the Roxbury Arts Alliance, a non-profit group that said the goal was to bring a little joy to pandemic-weary participants. Musician Charlie Zahm was scheduled to be the headliner.

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“We made this difficult decision after we decided to cancel our Tree Lighting Ceremony at Horseshoe Lake Park,” said Roxbury Township Manager John Shepherd in an email. “We appreciate all the work the Arts Alliance does for the Roxbury community. Everyone was looking forward to this event; however, we believe that safety is paramount.”

Disappointment All Around 

Shepherd said the decision to disallow the show aligns with advice being put forth by health experts. “All of the health guidance at this point is recommending a limitation on gatherings as the second wave of COVID-19 spikes across the country,” he said.

The Arts Alliance is “very disappointed,” said organization president Sarah Coraggio, who asserted the Alliance “takes seriously the COVID-19 crisis and acts responsibly.”

Under Gov. Phil Murphy’s most recent directives, outdoor gatherings are allowed but must be limited to 150 people and social distancing must be practiced.

“We were looking forward to providing our community with a free event this holiday season to lift our spirits during this difficult time,” Coraggio said. “We are confident that we would have complied with the governor’s new guidelines just as we did when we held six outdoor concerts this summer.”

Roxbury Mayor Bob DeFillippo stressed that “public safety must come first,” and echoed Coraggio’s expression of frustration. “We are all terribly disappointed that we again need to cancel events in the face of rapidly climbing COVID cases,” he said. “We ask for the public’s understanding and cooperation.”

Although Coraggio stressed that the Arts Alliance members “understand and support” the township’s decision, she also pointed out, on Sunday, that other gatherings in town appear to be taking place, including games at Horseshoe Lake Park (HSL).

“Please note that this morning there were sports taking place at HSL and a church was holding a service,” she said in an email. “So I’m confused.”

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