Winnipeg Folk Festival is cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers say.
In a news release Tuesday afternoon festival organizers announced they are “absolutely heartbroken” to cancel the 47th annual summer celebration.
“This has been one of the worst days of my life,” executive director Lynne Skromeda told host Ismaila Alfa in an interview on CBC’s Up To Speed shortly after Tuesday’s announcement.
“I have to say it’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, even though I know it’s the right thing to do and the responsible thing to do,” she said.
Skromeda said the “difficult decision” was made nearly three months before the time of year when tens of thousands of attendees would normally be flocking to the four-day festival filled with music, art and camping just outside of Winnipeg.
Canadian Juno award-winning duo Tegan and Sara were supposed to be among the stars headlining the event.
Acclaimed singer-songwriter John Prine, who was also set to perform, died at age 73 due to COVID-19 complications, his family announced last week.
“We care about you and your health, first and foremost, and we cannot plan and deliver the Winnipeg Folk Fest you expect while ensuring everyone’s safety in the difficult current conditions,” organizers wrote in a statement.
“We know these are challenging times, but our community is resilient and through moments of sorrow or joy, music is always there to connect us, help us and heal us.”
The festival was planned for July 9 to 12 at Birds Hill Provincial Park.
Full refunds will be made available to those who have already purchased tickets, according to the release.
Ticket holders can expect to receive an email on how to obtain refunds or donate the money to future festival initiatives, organizers said.
Organizers are hoping they can follow through with plans to bring the festival back in July 2021.
“Please hold on to your cherished memories of past Folk Fests and know you will create new ones when we’re able to do it safely — singing along to our favourite tunes with friends and family, dancing under the warm sun and seeing a crowd of smiling faces.”
The festival’s full statement about this decision can be read online.
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Mounting coronavirus concerns have already wiped out most upcoming art, music and cultural festivals in the province.
The Manitoba Filipino Street Festival also made the announcement Tuesday to cancel its Winnipeg event.
“Today, with a heavy heart, we have to make this decision,” festival chair Ley Navarro wrote in a statement.
“It will be a big disappointment to all associations and groups planning and preparing parade floats, costumes and dances for this year’s cultural festivity” as well as the Filipino food vendors, Navarro said.
The street festival was scheduled for June 13 and 14 in the city’s Maples area.
For the first time in 19 years, Winnipeg’s Super-Spike is cancelled. That decision was also made due to COVID-19 concerns, organizers said.
“With the outlook and effects of COVID-19 being unpredictable this summer, and the safety of our attendees and participants top of mind, it is with heavy hearts that we have decided to cancel this summer’s Super-Spike,” reads an online statement.
The outdoor volleyball tournament, combined with a party and concerts, at Maple Grove Rugby Park was set for July 17 and 18.
It is still planning to go ahead in the summer of 2021.
The Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival is one of the last major events that still appears to be going ahead this summer.
According to its website, organizers are continuing to monitor the local pandemic situation and its impact.
“At this time, we’re planning to hold the festival as scheduled but we’re adapting as needed. We’re taking this time to carefully consider all our options to best support our artists, volunteers, patrons and staff,” reads an online statement.
Two weeks of theatre shows and street performances are set to run at various locations in the city from July 15 to July 26.
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