London Ribfest, Airshow London latest to announce pandemic-related postponements

2017 FILE PHOTO. Global News

London Ribfest and Craft Beer Festival and Airshow London are the latest events to announce postponements due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

In a tweet Friday afternoon, Airshow London confirmed that the pandemic “has forced us to postpone our traditional festival-style event until next year” but that “we are working on ways to still bring you an air show — even if it’s a bit different than what you are used to.”

At this point, no details are available about how that would look and organizers say they are “evaluating all opportunities” and will make another announcement “when we know if we can take flight.”

The airshow also notes that 2020 ticket holders were messaged this week.

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London Ribfest and Craft Beer Festival will also not go on as scheduled, but the organizer is hoping that all the plans for 2020 can be moved to 2021.

Doug Hillier, president of Family Shows Canada and organizer of the festival in Victoria Park, says this year was particularly well-organized and plans were finalized before the pandemic brought large gatherings to a halt.

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However, he’s hoping “all of it” can be salvaged for next year — including its largest entertainment schedule yet of 45 bands, as well as plans to open up an additional stage.

“It does take a very long time to produce the festivals so it may be that we’re using this time to be even better, to create more stages, to get more funding,” Hillier said.

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Hillier previously called off other festivals he manages, including the Children’s Festival, but he told Global News he was hoping to find a way to make Ribfest work.

“I wanted the public to have one big hurrah at the end of the year,” he said, adding that organizers were looking into “dismantling” the festival by sectioning off different areas and trying to come up with safety protocols.

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“But in the process of doing that we realized this was not the tradition,” he said. “It wouldn’t be the amazing Ribfest. We are the biggest in Canada, second largest in North America.”

Click to play video: 'Weekend Entertainment: socially-distanced festivals and movies'
Weekend Entertainment: socially-distanced festivals and movies

Hillier says he had good intentions but after consulting with health professionals, vendors and city officials he realized the festival could not go on as scheduled.

He added that this would’ve been the 33rd annual Ribfest — if you count the first three years when it was a barbecue festival — and the third year that included a craft beer festival, though craft beer has been included in the festival since 2009, he says.

While Hillier was very appreciative of the city’s approach in conversations he’s had as part of the mayor’s task force — describing city officials and the mayor as “really good, excellent, in fact, very caring” — he did note that the impact of the pandemic on the festival business has been extensive.

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“About 95 per cent of my vendors are full-time vendors,” he said. “Most events actually lose money.”

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