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Saskatchewan summer events await official decision on COVID-19 crowd restrictions

Saskatchewan summer events await official decision on COVID-19 crowd restrictions
WATCH: While many summer events in Saskatchewan have been cancelled or postponed, others are waiting.

They are summer staples in Saskatchewan — Regina’s Queen City Ex in late July and the Saskatoon Ex in early August.

In 2019, the QCX drew its best attendance in 35 years — 234,582 people — and created an economic impact of $7.1 million, according to Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL).

As of Tuesday, REAL hadn’t made a decision on whether to cancel or postpone the 2020 fair amid COVID-19 restrictions on crowd sizes.

“As is the case with most situations right now, we’re continuing to just watch and follow the government and Saskatchewan Health Authority’s mandates and advice,” REAL wrote in a statement to Global News.

“The advisory committee and organizing team are all continuing to meet and discuss, but there’s really no decision at this time as far as QCX goes.”

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READ MORE: Coronavirus: Saskatoon organizers optimistic The Ex will go ahead in August

As of Tuesday, people could still purchase non-refundable admission for this year’s QCX on the REAL website.

Prairieland Park, which runs the Saskatoon Ex on its grounds, is also staying the course — for now.

“We are hopeful that the Saskatoon Ex will go forward, depending on how well the Saskatchewan reopen plan kind of goes through. We have not cancelled it yet,” said Kristy Rempel, marketing manager for Prairieland Park.

READ MORE: Mass gathering restriction will remain in Alberta for summer: Hinshaw

The Saskatchewan government is moving ahead on easing some restrictions, as per its reopening plan, next week.

However, there’s no definitive timeline for when restriction on gathering 10 people or less — with proper physical distancing — will be lifted.

“Large gatherings are a high-risk area for the spread of COVID-19. That has been proven time and time again,” said Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe on Monday.

“We have not made a decision on large events out in the months ahead; however, maybe it is worthy of a discussion.”

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Moe said that discussion would need to involve a number of event organizers, including the host committee for the 2020 Grey Cup scheduled for late November.

The premier was responding to a question about large-scale events following an announcement Monday that the Western Canadian Agribition, scheduled Nov. 28 to Dec. 5, was planning to go ahead.

“For the short-term, those events just aren’t possible. Short term being the next couple to few months,” Moe said.

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“After that, I’m actually becoming less positive that we will be able to gather in these many thousands of people.”

Organizers throughout Saskatoon are getting ready for Canada’s 150th anniversary on Saturday.
Organizers of Saskatoon’s Optimist Canada Day in Diefenbaker Park have cancelled the event for July 1, 2020. File / Global News

Moe noted Canada Day events in cities and communities across the province may also be affected.

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Early July may pose a challenge for Country Thunder Music Festivals, which is still scheduled July 9-12 in Craven, Sask.

“The only way to get out of contracts is if the government says, ‘you can’t have events.’ So we sort of need government to give us an indication of what’s happening.”

Organizers have already moved the festival’s Florida, Arizona and Iowa dates to the fall, and postponed Big Valley Jamboree in Camrose, Alta., to 2021.

Country Thunder Alberta, which takes place in Calgary, has also been postponed, with details to come on Wednesday.

“No decision yet on Country Thunder Saskatchewan or Wisconsin at this time,” said Gerry Krochak, the festivals’ director of marketing & media relations on Tuesday.

Dan + Shay (left) and Kane Brown (right) are slated to perform at the 2020 Country Thunder Music Festival.
Dan + Shay (left) and Kane Brown (right) are slated to perform at the 2020 Country Thunder Music Festival. AP Photo / Mark Humphrey (Dan + Shay) and Getty Images (Kane Brown)

Many event organizers have already made difficult decisions to cancel or postpone.

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The Regina Folk Fest, Aug. 7-9, is cancelled, while the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, July 3-12, in Saskatoon has been postponed “until further notice.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Safety and financial concerns factors for postponed summer festivals

Saskatoon Folk Fest organizers have yet to make a decision on the multicultural festival, which runs Aug.13-15.

The Regina Multicultural Council (RMC) postponed its annual Mosaic Festival, scheduled for June 4-6, for mid to late August.

“We will co-ordinate with all the pavilions to come up with a suitable date at an appropriate time,” the RMC wrote on its website.

“The RMC will ensure that each pavilion gets enough time to prepare for food and make other necessary arrangements.”

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Late August is the usual timing for Regina’s Shake the Lake outdoor concert series.

Conexus Arts Centre runs the two-day event, hosted on its grounds overlooking Wascana Lake.

“We are ready to announce our lineup, but are uncertain if that is prudent at this time. So we’re sort of in a holding pattern until we get further direction from government,” said Neil Donnelly, Conexus Arts Centre CEO.

READ MORE: COVID-19 pandemic affects Saskatoon in more ways than event cancellations

Donnelly said cancelling isn’t an option at this point, as the event has contractual obligations to artists.

“We really can’t cancel. We’re under contracts with artists and that type of thing,” he said.

“The only way to get out of contracts is if the government says, ‘you can’t have events.’ So we sort of need government to give us an indication of what’s happening.”

Organizers of Rock the River, a similar outdoor concert weekend in Saskatoon, are also moving ahead with their event Aug. 14-16.

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“The fact that our event dates are still months away, planning for Rock the River, Saskatchewan’s Outdoor Classic Rock Festival is moving ahead,” the event website states.

“We have no plans at present to cancel or postpone. Of course, plans are subject to change, and we will use information provided by Public Health Canada and Saskatchewan Health Authority to adjust as necessary.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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