MANTI, Utah — Many festivals and celebrations held throughout the state during the summer have been canceled or rescheduled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Rat Fink Reunion, which has been held for 18 years in Manti, will be held virtually for the first time.
“I was pretty much in tears knowing our friends won’t be able to join us this year, but we’re making the best of it we can,” said Ilene Roth, the owner and wife of the late Rat Fink creator Ed Roth.
The Roths created the reunion after “Big Daddy” Ed passed away 19 years ago.
“Every one comes here because of their love for Big Daddy Roth,” said Cody Braithwaite, Roth’s son. “He inspired many people to do whatever it was they were meant to do.”
More than 80 artists across the world come to Manti for the reunion, honoring Ed — the first person to put a design on a t-shirt and to customize a car.
“All of the custom cars you see today were inspired by Ed in the beginning,” said Rusty Braithwaite, another one of Roth's sons.
The reunion brings in hundreds of people each year and thousands of dollars to their small town community.
“It was a teary night when I had to call and let them know that we’d canceled,” said Roth.
Most motel rooms in the area would be booked from Tuesday to Saturday during the reunion.
Once their county filled up, people would book rooms in nearby counties.
Instead of filling up Sanpete County, the Roths are holding the reunion virtually through social media.
Artists will send a picture of themselves standing in front of their car. Roth said artists have also agreed to film interviews about how they created their artwork.
The Roths are also trying to find ways to hold a virtual 5K run, so others can get their Rat Fink 5K t-shirt.
Also included in the three day schedule is an auction — all of the proceeds will go to Manti City.
“We’ve had lots of artists contact us and say, ‘I’m really concerned about how this is going to affect Manti,’ because they have such a love for the place and for what happens here,” said Lindsay Reed, Roth’s daughter-in-law.
The Roths are also thinking of ways to open up Rat Fink later in the season if the pandemic has passed.
One thing is for certain, though — the art, cars and t-shirts will all be back next year, Roths said, continuing Big Daddy Roth’s legacy.
“They loved everything my husband did and we’re just trying to carry on,” Roth said.