Nina Bifolchi, the town’s mayor, said officials were aware of plans for the event for a couple of weeks after posts began to appear on social media.
“We didn’t know how many would really show up because again it’s all over social media,” she told Global News.
“The organizers are unnamed and unaccountable really for these types of events. So it’s really hard to nail down what was going to happen.”
But Bifolchi said what ended up transpiring on Saturday was the “biggest uncontrollable event” she has seen in her 14 years on council.
“There was just too many people to control. They were on every corner, they were in every parking lot,” Bifolchi said.
“And really the OPP along with all of their resources did a fantastic job — the best that they could in this situation.”
People first began coming into the town on Friday.
Images posted to social media showed huge crowds lining the streets and cars performing stunts. Many people did not appear to be wearing masks.
The event came one week after Premier Doug Ford’s government announced new restrictions for private or unmonitored gatherings amid rising coronavirus cases. Indoor gatherings are now limited to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors. Organizers of events in violation of the rules could face a fine of at least $10,000 and attendees could be fined $750.
On Sept. 19 an impromptu car rally was held in Hamilton, leading to sharp criticism from officials, including Ford who called it “reckless behaviour.”
A spokesperson for Ford also commented on Saturday’s rally in Wasaga Beach.
“The premier has been very clear, these large unorganized gatherings are irresponsible and unacceptable,” Ivana Yelich said in a statement.
“As cases continue to climb in Ontario, we must work together to control the spread of COVID-19. Our collective actions will determine how severe any potential waves will be.”
OPP Sgt. Jason Folz said a number of tickets were handed out for violations under the Highway Traffic Act and some cars were towed.
Folz also said a “significant amount” of charges were laid under the Reopening Ontario Act for gathering violations, but didn’t provide specific figures. He said more charges could be laid on Sunday because some individuals were still in the town for the rally.
“It was a lot of unsafe activity going on. People in the middle of the street, standing in the street drinking while holding up signs, trying to get people to spin their tires,” Biofolchi said.
“To have this group come and take over your town with no regard for anyone else or the cost to the province — to have all the resources in place — is absolutely disgusting.”
Biofolchi said OPP officers set up checkpoints around the town prior to the event to look for illegal car modifications, but after so many people showed up, officers used the checkpoints to prevent any non-residents from entering.
Biofolchi said Sunday morning that she was unsure as to whether or not those restrictions were still in place.
Meanwhile, Ontario reported 491 new coronavirus cases on Sunday marking the largest single-day increase in cases since May 2.