The Park District of Forest Park’s 16-inch No Glove National Softball Tournament, around since 1969, will not be held this year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s limited allowances for public gatherings.

“It is with a heavy heart that we have decided to cancel this year’s 16-inch No Glove National Softball Tournament,” said the park district in a June 26 message on its website. “This is a longstanding tradition that we eagerly await every year, so the decision was not an easy one to make.”

The tournament, which was awarded the Outstanding Special Event Award in January at the Illinois Parks Conference, has been a hugely popular annual event, drawing spectators and players by the thousands.

Now, however, while the state of Illinois is in Phase 4 of its Restore Illinois plan, allowing more flexibility in reopening many businesses and recreation facilities, the park district staff decided that the safety of players and spectators was the most important factor. The large number of people who attend the event would make it impossible to keep everyone protected or to abide by the state’s rules.

“This event draws thousands of people over those four days and in adhering to the Governor’s guidelines, we would not be able to accommodate that many people on the softball fields or in the event area,” said the park district. “We would also have severe limitations with food and refreshments in following the state’s food service guidelines.”

An option discussed by park staff was postponing the event until the fall. However, uncertainty about when the state will move into Phase 5, essential to hosting an event of that size, prohibits proper planning for such a large event.

And changing the way the tournament is held to adhere to guidelines wasn’t an option the park district thought would truly honor the event.

“This tournament has been the gold standard for 51 years,” said the message to residents, “and staff concluded that stripping the tournament of what makes it great in order to adhere to all Phase 4 guidelines would compromise the integrity of the tournament.”