For 26 years each September the Kennedy Center has opened its doors and packed its plazas for a free day of entertainment.

This year the Open House event has gotten the axe.

One reason, an official said, was a noticeable decrease in attendance. In 2009 the festival drew 30,000 people. Last year under 20,000 attended, according to the center.

A crowded September calendar across the region is one reason for the dwindling crowds and the cancellation. “For the past several years, we began to compete with other community events,” said John Dow, a spokesman for the center. September marks the beginning of the cultural season and a growing number of theaters and arts groups have free events to kickoff their calendars and showcase their performances.

Dow said the original purpose of serving the community by breaking down the barrier of getting to the center and offering a broader menu of performances has changed. People have improved access to the center through a free shuttle service from the Foggy Bottom Metro. The Millennium Stage with a free performance at 6 p.m. every night features groups not usually booked into the center’s large halls.

Maybe one of the witches cast a spell on the shuttered Open House. Dee Roscioli as Elphaba in “Wicked.”(Photo by Joan Marcus/Courtesy The Kennedy Center)

The day-long Open House cost approximately $300,000, according to the center. The funds came from the Millennium Stage budget, which is supported by Target. Some performances at the Open House had individual sponsorships, as well as general support form the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities and the center’s Washington Committee on the Arts.