The American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) has canceled its 2021 AGTA GemFair Tucson—making the show the latest trade victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event, considered the industry’s preeminent colored stone exhibition, was scheduled to take place Feb. 2–7, 2021, in Tucson, Ariz. It would have been AGTA’s 39th GemFair. This is the first time since its inception that the show has been canceled.
AGTA CEO Doug Hucker says the group is exploring putting on some kind of virtual event, and is looking at different options right now.
The cancellation was a clear disappointment for Hucker, who had been hopeful the group could stage a COVID-safe version of its standard event. “For 39 years, we’ve done this show,” he says. “It hasn’t sunk in.”
Arizona state guidelines bar meetings of 50 or more people. However, organizations looking to hold large events can file an application demonstrating they’re able to meet certain health guidelines.
But the health department of Pima County, Ariz.—which encompasses Tucson—declined AGTA’s application, and the group eventually decided it would be tough to work out logistics.
“It was a hard decision,” Hucker says. “No one wanted to cancel the show. Tucson didn’t want to do it, we didn’t want to do it. It’s very difficult for our members. A lot of them rely on Tucson for a lot of their business. The board struggled with it for a long time. But it was a unanimous decision. We are in the middle of a health crisis that is pummeling everyone.”
Tucson itself is being particularly hard hit. On Dec. 1, Pima County logged nearly 1,000 new COVID-19 cases, and its overall case count numbered almost 40,000. The Tucson City Council has also approved Mayor Regina Romero’s request to institute a mandatory nightly curfew, beginning Friday. It’s possible the city’s convention center, the traditional home of GemFair, may be used as an overflow hospital, Hucker says.
“With what’s taking place in Tucson now, the requirements they need to place on the show, it was untenable,” he adds. “It’s just ugly right now.”
The cancellation of AGTA’s GemFair comes after the Gem & Jewelry Exchange Show, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, and JCK Tucson—all scheduled for roughly the same time in February—called off planned 2021 events.
The next AGTA GemFair is scheduled for June 2021 in Las Vegas, with final dates not yet confirmed. The dates for the 2022 AGTA GemFair are Feb. 1–6, 2022.
Top: The AGTA GemFair in happier days (photo courtesy of the American Gem Trade Association)
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